headlights through fog

by bam

the reason my heart skipped, twirled, did a jig ’round the curb, is, i’d been waiting. holding my breath. praying. beckoning guardian angels to please get him home.
not ’cause i’m some sappy ol’ wife with nothing to do but wait by the curb in my curlers with bonbons.
heck, there were children to tuck into bed. and dishes to scrub in the sink.
but after the phone call, none of that mattered. not so much anymore.
you might recall–it was yesterday only–that the man who i love, the man we’ll call mr. parallel life, had grabbed the keys off the ring, hopped in the ol’ wagon, taken off for parts 200 miles away.
well, mr. parallel, late in the day, had wrapped it all up, was minding his business, steering for home. when all of a sudden there sounded a rather loud boom. that boom, he soon realized, had just come from him. or his left rear tire, that is.
thing was, he was out on the interstate where 18-wheel rigs think nothing of rolling by at, oh, 800 miles an hour. or so it felt. tucked off to the side, just after a bend, where the road starts to come up what we in the middle parts of the country call a hill. really, it was the slightest of slopes.
or so i know because i grilled him for every last detail.
but that wasn’t till later, when he and the tire in shreds had come through the fog, into my jiggety arms.
the hours between were, like the cumulus clouds of mist that rolled in, sifted through trees, settled on lawns, made of the street a scene from an old hitchcock movie, eery and quite rather scary.
he called right away, just before dinner. called to say, well, all is fine except that i’ve just blown a tire, and i’m out in the middle of nowhere, and the darkness is just ’round the bend. the trucks barreling by seem to think this is that stretch of ol’ indiana where the 500 revs up its engines.
and then maybe he stuck the phone out the window, ’cause all the way here, i could hear how those semis shimmied and shook down the highway.
let me just say, a girl with barely an ounce of imagination might see pictures of very big trucks veering awfully close to that shoulder. not me. i have imagination overdrive. i pictured right on to the front page of the newspaper, gathering the kiddies, draping my sorrowful self all in black.
oh, lord. time started ticking in very slow motion. here i was, scared and basically helpless. there he was, on the side of the interstate, in the dim-turning-to-dark, waiting for a tow truck to rumble out of the blackness.
i called here and there. tried to be helpful. offered to go buy a tire, drive it down there. called my friends at the gas station, who assured me the measly round object in the back of the volvo–the thing that looks like a make-believe tire–could actually safely hobble him home. thing was, he’d have to get off of the interstate. drive home straight through gary. which, if you were from this part of the world, you might know is not exactly a traipse through the candyland forest.
and so began the vigil for someone you love. that close encounter with what might go wrong that reminds us how essential is their breath in our ear.
we have, i imagine, all waited. and worried. not known how or when a drama would end. we have, some of us, seen dramas end achingly bad. we have stood in hospital hallways. heard doctors summon unspeakable words.
“i’m so sorry,” is all the doctor once said. i had to ask, “is he dead?” spell it out, tell me, because at this moment there’s fog and i am finding it terribly hard to wrap my head around what you are saying.
i have not yet–but i know it’s coming, can feel it too breathing right down my neck–waited for a child with keys and a car and a curfew that’s blown. maybe i’ll be lucky. maybe mine–the older one, at least–won’t blow a curfew. but still there will be minutes that turn into hours, where i am waiting. remembering news headlines. imagining.
maybe i’m wired with just enough fear that i am often tamping it down. putting out sparks before they turn into fires. i have a mind that takes off like a kite in a hurricane. it pitches and swirls, it crashes and splinters in pieces. it needs some sort of leash. and a short one, if you’ve got one just lying around.
to wait for someone you love is to sift through the core of your life. to realize the threads of the net that they weave, the net that keeps you from flailing, from falling.
you hold hands with your children at dinnertime prayers. you squeeze a little harder, remind them you’re there, and, while you’re at it, so is the God you are asking to bring home their papa.
you look then out the window. you see that it’s gotten all blurry. and no, it’s not you and your worry. there’s a fog, a thick one, rolled in from the lake. and it’s ratcheting up the equation.
now you have a husband hobbling home on a make-believe wheel in a fog thick as smooshed peas. and he’s taking the side roads, besides.
drawn somehow by the spine-tingling beauty, the mystery, really, of these clouds that have reshaped the landscape, this fog that has smoothed all the harsh edges, wrapped halos on each of the light posts, you step into it.
leave behind the warmth of the house. find yourself staring straight down the street, into the mouth of the darkness. you are imploring now. you think of the song you sang so long ago. “come home, daddy, come home.” you walked to the corner and waited to see his little blue falcon. the car that magically brought home your hero. every time. except for the last time. when the doctor answered, “yes, he is dead.”
you stand in the fog in the street. you know, any minute, you’ll see the lights in the distance. the little round glow, two glows actually. and the glow will come near you, will pull to the curb. and there will be someone’s daddy. someone wide-eyed upstairs in bed. ’cause his daddy was due hours ago. and he’s only just now coming in through the door.
the vigil is over. the headlights did come. they broke through the fog. they shimmered with halos the whole way down the street.
the one that you love made it home, wrapped in white light.
precisely the prayer you had prayed.

have you waited lately? or ever? do you find your mind racing into dark corners? or do you have some secret serenity, some faith that all will work out, until proven otherwise? do you remember waiting as a young child? do you recall how sweet the embrace when the vigil is over?

by the way, thank you to those who partook of the impromptu prayer ring, mom, emb. and most of all to the guardian angels who got the boy home.

a triple big birthday to my favorite triplets, cate, charlie and matt. and to the mama and papa who teach all of us what it means to be extraordinary in the parent dept.

to my mama, who forever calls today her wedding day. now 53 years ago. and to gary and cecilia who call it the same, although theirs was a dozen or so.

finally, the lazy susan is restocked with a nod to october. give it a whirl.

and now, tell me your stories of waiting…..