I realized, as drizzle speckled my windscreen, that I was lost. My headlights shone into the vacant space in front of the vehicle and were reflected back by an intense fog. Lost. Figures. I’m new to this. I’ll always be new to this, I think. I’ll never do it quite like they can. The others on the road can tell. I think they can smell my fear through the steel.
I had begun to lose confidence in my map-reading abilities, to say the least. Actually I had been ambivalent about them before this night, but sometimes you have to throw yourself headlong into a situation without looking back—how else will you ever get anywhere? It gets tiring, alone at home with the reruns. You grow restless, want to feel some sunlight on your skin.
I knew I was in a familiar neighborhood. I recognized the warped street signs, the shadowed landmarks. But I didn’t know how to get from point A to point B, from panic to refuge. Frustrating, not being about to get someplace when you’re around crap you recognize, stuff you see everyday shoved in your face plain as day, like a joke with a rimshot.
You mentioned that I could call you. You hoped that I would call you. You were never subtle. I never thought I’d pick up the phone, until I found myself squinting in the dimly lit car cabin, thumbing through my contacts for your number as the heat in the resting car began to dissipate. I had assumed before that even being new at this, I would get along just fine on my own, reading my own map, but this night was different. Because it just was. And that is all.
You picked up, not quite believing it was me, and not quite believing I would ask you to help me find my way. To be perfectly honest, I called, not quite believing it was you, and not quite believing I was asking you to help me out with the map. Maybe it was the drizzle or the fog that pushed me. Maybe it was the darkness.
Together we talked our way through it, stumbling through awkward verbal moments and your recurring incredulity, a few heavy exhalations billowing into our receivers. I don’t think I really believed you knew the best route. I think I had just grown tired of going at it alone. I think I just really needed to hear someone else’s voice in that moment.
For a while after that, you would accompany me on drives and be my navigator. I have to say, you made it a point to help ensure that I obtained some kind of confidence, not just behind the wheel, but in all my endeavors. That is invaluable, and I appreciate it, probably more than you know. But this couldn’t last forever, and I knew it from the get-go. For that, I apologize. I regret wasting your time.
It is quiet now, in the cabin, as I drive down the road to all my familiar haunts. I’m not as intimidated by the warped signs and waning sunlight anymore. I’d rather be home before dark, but I accept that, of course, I will occasionally be stuck out in the dark. My only hope is that next time I get lost, I call someone as helpful as you were.