learning to drive in the snow

by erika

#1 Avoid driving when you’re fatigued.

Soul-weary, boy comes in and wakes me before light. “Five more minutes I plead. Five more minutes.”

#2 Accelerate and decelerate slowly.

I jump out of bed when I see what time it is. We are already late and I haven’t yet noticed the snow. It is beautiful, I am supposed to think. But I’m already imagining fish-tailing, spinning out, losing control.

#3 Drive slowly. Everything takes longer on snow covered roads.

“Use your strategies, mama,” the boy says. I try to breathe and tap my sternum. I have been doing a metaphoric 90 in a 45 and only just noticed that the asphalt beneath me is not road but black ice. I am lucky to be alive, I say to myself, not as an exuberant whoop and holler but as an actual fact. When did the freeze come? How long had I lived in a world with so much friction and yet so much hazardous slip?

#4 Know your brakes.

In the dream that comes back over and over, I can’t remember which is the gas and which is the brake. I am barefoot and the pedals don’t feel right. I am going too fast. I am not slowing down. The road is usually dark and I’m in an unfamiliar car on that winding road in Maine where as a little girl my “Uncle” drove too fast, too wild, after too many drinks. I know this will not end well and I wake right before

#5 Don’t stop if you can avoid it.

Check.

#6 Don’t power up hills.

This new job is like an ocean with no islands. “Thank god I like to swim,” I joke with friends. This new job is like a mountain with no summit. I set cairns along the route, scribble notes in my “Chair’s handbook” for whomever shall follow. There isn’t a clear path, just forward. Which sometimes means cut back and sit by that tree there and listen.

#7 Don’t stop going up a hill.

I am learning to listen. This is hardest in the dark when I’m alone and all that I hear are the stories I tell myself and the train outside my night window. It is these stories that spin me out and land me in the drift. I battle Inertia, that mythical bitch whose chapped heels are dug in strong, and pull myself off the kitchen floor. The kitchen floor is no place for your boy to find you, I think. That thought alone could move mountains, or at least keep me going uphill.

#8 Stay home.

We have made it through the rituals of morning and as we head out into the snow, I remember the porch light. It will be dark by 5 o’clock now and the steps will be treacherous, if we make it home alive. I love the optimism of a porch light. Turning it on is my small prayer, my slight nod to the universe that I will survive this day. I return, twist the key in the cold lock, and flick the switch inside the door. If I could stay home, I would, but I am learning to drive in the snow and that is teaching me more than I can imagine.