Queen of the Road

I get now why some people like driving gas-guzzling, road-hogging monster SUVs and trucks.

Because they’re fun.

You should’ve seen me in Daddy Goodman’s 99 Chevrolet Suburban. Queen of the Road. I imagined that I became Leader of 18-Wheelers out there, as I became a self-appointed member of their tribe, that we own this road, and they fell in line behind me as I went 80 (and even 90 a few times, by accident) on I-81. The truckers were probably getting on their walkie-talkies to each other: “This Chevy Suburban out here knows what she’s doing. Just follow her.” That’s right. Just follow me. I am winning this race.

Nine hours later when I’m sitting in the parking lot of 495, what we call the beltway around here (what we called the perimeter in the ATL), and I’m in northern Virginia only about 30 or 45 minutes from my house, yet it takes me two more hours to get there… well, then I’m singing a different tune. And my AC needs Freon because it only blows out what I call lukecool air. Somehow in the span of the few days I was gone it went from coat- and scarf- and hat-wearing 40s (yep, in May) to full-on summer time. I think I lost five pounds in weight just from sweating. Rolling down the windows did not help, and somehow made it so that the air was hotter around my legs, which were stuck to the leather seats by a layer of sweat.

Then it started to rain, thank God, and pretty soon it was raining inside my truck, right on my left leg. It actually felt great, and I wished it would rain on my other leg, and my arms too.

Last night I had a dream that I was in the backseat of an RV camper, and my bestie’s friend whose name I’ll make Arizona, was driving. She drove that thing like a master, coming right up on this other truck head-first, braking at the last minute like a bus driver, just when you think they’re about to hit the other vehicle and kill us all, but no, they’re just stopping how they’re apparently supposed to. In my dream Arizona’s driving this monster like a pro, without any pride, unlike me, who was pretty sure I needed to announce to all of my co-workers the next day that that was my Chevy Suburban out there in the parking lot, which I drove all the way from North Carolina, all by myself, like a big girl, with no help from anyone, not even a camera for reversing it, and barely any view from the back window to see behind me, just the side mirrors and some prayers to guide me and let me know there’s not a child (knock on wood, please God) or a pole or a garbage can back there. But Arizona just drove that camper like it was second nature, because it was, and she did not have to brag to anyone about it.

Dreams, in my opinion, reveal to us what’s going on in our subconscious mind. Other characters are usually a part of ourselves, maybe an unrecognized part. So let me tell you what Arizona represents for me.

I first met Arizona maybe 12 or 15 years ago when Kim moved in with her when she moved to Asheville. At the time, Arizona had a couple of big labs and a boyfriend, and they each seemed to come and go as they pleased—she and the boyfriend, I mean, not the labs (unless they were anything like my dog). And now Arizona owns a house across from Kim’s, and she’s still coming and going as she pleases. She allowed me to stay in the spare bedroom of her house, where she lives alone with her cat, and which she rents as an air B&B to tourists. She’s my age, and gorgeous. She looks beautiful without make-up, like Kim. Me? I prefer not to leave the house without at least some eyeliner and mascara on. And a dab of foundation and powder. And a smidge of lip gloss.

Anyway, Arizona gets up and gets her coffee and does her morning routine, while I’m in my room doing homework, and I come out to go to the bathroom, when she tells me she’s going for a run. That’s the kind of woman she is. Someone who casually decides to go for a run and then just does it, right then and there. She’s been doing this for years. Last time I stayed at her house 15 years ago she was getting up and going for a run, with her dogs.

The one time I went for a run with my dog–a decision that came after years of contemplating how I should quit drinking and do something healthy, like run–another dog and his human passed us, running in a straight line, obediently following the rules, barely breaking a sweat, and to which Dakota (I don’t know why I’m giving my dog a pseudonym too, but I am. Everyone’s anonymity needs to be protected here!)—Dakota took off chasing them, ready to kill, because this neighborhood is her turf, wrapping a circle around my legs with the leash, tripping me, into a pile of dog poo no less. And that was the end of that.

We tried running one more time, but that was an accident. That was just because I got lost in some neighborhood and had to get back to make it to my hair appointment on time. I didn’t actually want to run. I didn’t know people really did that for fun. I prefer riding my bike, which can kill you going uphill, but then you can fly or coast downhill at your leisure. You get breaks.

But Arizona is one of those people who runs for fun, and she plays soccer, and who knows what else.

In the car on the way to Kim’s graduation I got a text from Jay, and mentioned something about my new guy, and how Steven had just ripped my heart out five months ago, and she said, “Oh yeah. I just got dumped.” But not in a self-pity way. More like in a matter-of-fact way. I told her I knew how she felt, that it sucks so badly, even when you’re not in love with the guy, not that I was not with Steven, as you know if you’ve been following this blog. Then she said, “I thought he and I had a good thing going. We each had our own independence which seemed like a great thing to me. But he didn’t like that. Oh well. I’m just like, if you can’t see the value of this relationship, then…” and she trailed off, the implication being that this bird’s got wings. Good on you, sister.

That’s how I feel about Steven. I tried so hard for so long to convince him of the value of our relationship, yet he was so full of doubt. I can’t be the only one fighting for the relationship. He’s got to meet me in the middle. I never loved anyone as much as I loved him. None of my husbands or boyfriends. No one. The only other person I ever loved that much was my best friend, who’s like my third sister, except I never thought of Steven like a sister or a brother or even like my dad or mom in any Freudian sense, or so I had believed, or hoped, and tried.

Yesterday at work I asked the handyman who I’ll call… Dirk (who has the most gigantic hands I’ve ever seen–not that gigantic hands are important to me, just an observation) to help me figure out the trick to putting Freon in this monster. Daddy Goodman had told me to get “one of my boyfriends,” because I have so many, to put Freon in it for me, because he said he didn’t trust himself to do it properly. Don’t you just open the container and pour it in? I’ve had to do this with my previous cars, before I got my sexy little 2008 Honda Civic two-door coupe, and it’s pretty straightforward. But apparently you need some kind of adapter thingie. I dunno. Which reminds me. When I was writing about the wheels on my Civic in a previous post, I had no idea what I was talking about with the lug nuts and the wheel bearings. So if you don’t know about cars, you probably thought I knew what I was talking about, and if you know about cars, you may have been wondering what the hell I was talking about, and you could see right through me, which is fine. I just made those words up because they sounded right.

So Dirk showed me where to put the Freon in, and he said that it’s tricky in old cars like this because there are two possible places for Freon. He didn’t treat me like I was a moron any more than he congratulated me for driving that bigass vehicle 11 hours from North Carolina in spite of my bragging that I was king of the road out there.

This post may seem like one long ramble, zigzagging this way and that, so I’ll get to the point and end here with this: maybe I got this. Maybe I don’t need to brag to everyone about what a badass I am, because I can just be one. And if I want to or need to be vulnerable, I can do that too. Whatever it is, it’s okay. I don’t have to prove anything to anybody. I just need to believe in myself.

And the same goes for you. Just believe in yourself. Because if you don’t, no one else will either.

Here’s a fun Roger Miller song from 1964 or 65 that I discovered in college (in the late 90s) when it became cool again to embrace my Southern-ness, which was not cool in high school at all. I thought this song played on the “Pulp Fiction” soundtrack or a Cohen brothers movie, but according to Wikipedia I was wrong. My point is, it could. It would belong there.

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