"We should get an RV," D. has said more than once this week. "Seriously, we'd be able to go anywhere."
After this morning's slow progress on our plan, I'm almost tempted to say yes.
Thankfully, my other wedding to-dos are waning. I've written my toast and charted the day-of schedule we'll have to get O. through. My dress and his ringbearer togs are fitted. All I have left is to assemble a slideshow of the happy couple, finalize the reception games we'll subject them to, and figure out which purse to carry. Makeup, snacks, sewing kit, hair pins, band-aids, headache relief -- where to put it all? The diaper backpack's tempting but a poor match for stilettos.
I start gathering supplies for a test-fit. "Oh come on," I mumble -- I'm out of the meds. I was at the store last week but hadn't started the packing list yet, and I'm dreading the back-to-school crowds. But O.'s already at the door to our garage, begging to go out. I don't resist. If he's willing, there's no better time than now to get the job done.
Everything these days is a job, I think as I pull out of our driveway. We are halfway down the block before I wonder if I've closed the garage door. It doesn't matter, I tell myself. We'll only be gone thirty minutes. But these endless tasks, boxes to be checked off -- it's no wonder I feel dull. I can't remember the last time I did something for myself this summer. At least, not without needing to invest as much energy in arranging for a personal stand-in to cover my absence as I was supposed to reclaim in the first place.
Four turns, six stoplights. The route is busy, but traffic moves. O. babbles to no one in particular -- is he telling me what he sees? We've been waiting for words, but even at 18 months, he has none. At his last check-up, we got a referral for early intervention services, which will start after we return. I'm relieved. Between this trip and the last one we took in March for my mother's birthday, we've spent most of O.'s year thus far in planning mode. This wedding needs to be over just so I can focus again on him, to say words like car, truck, and bus instead of accommodations, airline tickets, and aspirin. "Ya ya ya ya!" O. exclaims. I can't help wondering if the outside demands we've been fielding all year have more to do with his delays than any other cause.
I park. There are no carts nearby, so I sling O. onto my hip and start trekking to the corral at the store entrance. As I reach the end of our row of cars, a red SUV comes roaring past the front curb. It blows through the crosswalk and suddenly it's turning head-on toward me. My body freezes. Run, you idiot, the primal part of my brain says, but it's as if the rest of me can't believe the driver hasn't noticed us. Or maybe I'm afraid if I move, he'll swerve the wrong way. "Hey!" I shout. He can't possibly hear me. He goes left at the last second, swinging just wide.
I'm fuming. There's no apologetic wave or even recognition, just the hot stench of exhaust. I consider walking back to the guy's car and demanding an explanation. But I know it's pointless. He's got a wife and a kid in the passenger seats. For whatever reason, on his end or mine, I just wasn't visible.
See me, I scream silently. I haven't felt seen, I realize, in a terrifyingly long time. The work of preparing to move a pop-up habitat for so many events in this year and the last is like a scrim -- it keeps me forever busy behind the scenes and is itself so easy to look past. Not that my reasons for being in this parking lot on this day are the guy's reasons for nearly hitting me. But that don't-you-know-I'm-here moment I had in front of his bumper -- more and more, it feels like an ongoing state of being.
O. squirms in my arms. All this time he's been quiet, and I look at him for the first moment in a long minute. He's watching me, trying to read my expression, which must be anything but reassuring.
"We're okay," I tell him. But I know we both need better.
I'm linking up with Just Write this week. For more stories and essays, click the button below.