Years ago I went to visit my friend Jeana (not her real name) in Lexington, KY. I drove my cushy rental car from my hot shot job down to her apartment near the University. After settling in, she suggested we get dinner.
We walked out to her car. I saw that the driver side door was smashed in. She explained that her doofy sometimes-boyfriend, Steve, had parked the car along the curb and then opened the door into traffic. She shook her head and shrugged like, hey, watcha gonna do?
“Do you want me to drive?” I asked.
“No, no, no it’s fine,” she said. “Besides, I know where we’re going and you don’t.” She tugged on her door handle for a few seconds until the door finally popped open.
After we got moving it started to rain. Jeana reached up and wiped some raindrops off her face. “Why don’t you close your window?” I asked.
“Oh, the glass got smashed when the car hit the door.” Again, the no-big-deal shrug. A nervous giggle.
Then the skies opened up. We were on the highway by this point so Jeana was getting pelted in the face. Every time a car drove by a small, mucky storm surge of rainwater flew in. All the while she drove, wiping water from her eyes and trying to keep up the conversation.
“Do you want to pull over and wait a bit?” I asked. I wasn’t really sure what that would accomplish but I felt like I had to say something. It seemed insane not to mention what was happening.
“Oh no, I’m fine,” she assured me and just kept driving.
Then there was nothing else for me to do. I couldn’t fix the problem. She clearly didn’t want to talk about it, plus, what was there to say, really? “Wow. You’re still getting soaked. Check that shit out.”
So we soldiered on. I think we tried to talk like nothing was happening — which was awkward — but it seemed to be the way she wanted it.
The rain had subsided a bit by the time we got to the restaurant. Jeana walked in, soaking wet, and went to the ladies’ room to dry off as best she could. Then we had dinner like nothing had ever happened.
Sometimes over the past few years, I get the feeling that I’m Jeana in that car, getting smacked in the face with rain and mud puddles — feeling humiliated about it all but just continuing to drive.
Because what else is there to do, really?
Sometimes my friends sit in the passenger seat and we try to talk. I’m not as skilled as Jeana in denying that I’m getting plowed in the face with highway runoff, so I acknowledge it instead — as if by admitting the obvious my friends will feel more comfortable about my circumstances.
I shrug like Jeana did. Whatcha gonna do?
Yeah, I know I’m getting mud thrown in my face but I just need to drive through it.
We’ll be there soon.
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