She had the heater at full blast, barreling heat like a manufactured-air-Satan at her hands as they loosely clung to the steering wheel. It was a sunny October day, not particularly cold—except for her hands. She could not feel her fingers. Her nerve-endings screamed and cried like La Llorona as the feeling came back to them in shooting waves, except the only children her hands had killed were younger selves. With a thought her fingers, weeping ladies, gripped the steering wheel as tightly as they could and still they shook. She was thinking of women throughout history about whom society had murmured in agreement, “She really handled that with grace”—as if it were somehow applaud-able behavior to be dying on the inside and wearing a stony mask of composure. Younger selves had played out that pantomime too many times in previous bedrooms, only to die at their own hands when she killed that former-self and moved on.
When did I become a ghost in my own life? Her fingers shook in tight formation, an army of nerves, clenched on the steering wheel. She felt tucked away in the corners, barely in the peripherals. There was no place for her between post-it note love professions and relics on display—she couldn’t exist there. She was just a shadow, an after-thought, in the wake of something huge and soul-devouring.
She remembered reading as a youth and weeping because she could sympathize with a protagonist who loved someone no matter past, present, future, or circumstance—that eternal, unwavering optimism despite… Now she wept because she knew this kind of love did not exist. It was all fairytale; no matter how life-like, they were just words. And oh! what a pretty picture those words painted. She released her death-grip from the steering wheel and held her fingers to the vents like moths to a flame. They tingled with life despite the numb.
She had been listening to the last 2 minutes and 10 seconds of The Who’s “A Quick One While He’s Away” on repeat. You are forgiven You are forgiven You are forgiven You are forgiven emanated from the speakers like a mantra. She felt like Salinger’s Franny, “praying without ceasing”, except You are forgiven was her prayer instead of “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”. She was reciting it over and over again, trying to internalize the words and make them a part of her, as if saying them over and over again would make her forgive herself:
You are forgiven.