The Slippery Road
from the Editors archives #essay “I leave my once safe home to get into my car, destination unknown. As I’m walking quickly through the night, I spot a desperate looking hooker coming out of a shadowy motel off to my left. Also seen is a rough looking drug-dealer, shouting about things that are about to go down. I hurry off to reach the safety of my car, to leave my once safe neighborhood, wondering when it had gone to seed and how I hadn’t noticed before. Upon reaching my car, I slide into the driver’s seat and take off. Down the hill and to the main road. I stop at the stop sign, look both ways, and make a right turn that never ends. I didn’t see the ice, shining black, the very same black as the wet pavement. Was it really that cold out? I hadn’t felt the temperature on my way to the car. Having no control, I remember the advice. No brake, no accelerator, turn into the skid. I gently move the wheel to the right, turning and turning and turning; it cannot turn any more. Feeling confident I had done all possible, I breathe and wait for a hit. A curb, a car, a telephone pole; something will eventually stop this crazy spin, and I’m just praying that somehow it won’t be a person that is the force needed for me to stop. Please, God, don’t let me hurt someone. So I decide to let Him drive, just to be safe. But I keep spinning. Not sure whether up or down, on my left side, or on my right side, I just keep spinning. There is no hit, there is no slowing. How can this be? I know the road that I am on is not a straight one; there are curves, there are sharp corners. There are intersections with lights, cars parked on the left, on the right. Why haven’t I hit, why is there nothing to stop my spin? So I keep spinning. For the longest time. And I never hit. But, God, I’m not slowing. I’m speeding up. When is this going to end? My faith in letting Him drive is appreciated, not unnoticed, I know this. I feel this. I haven’t hit yet, but I am also not stopping! That’s when I hear a small voice in the back of my whirling mind, whispering softly to me. “You are safe. But you have to help.” Alarmed, I realize inaction will not help me here. What can I do? And so I lay on the horn. I can warn others that I am coming. Honk, honk. Out of my way! Uncontrolled car here, protect yourself! Out of my way! On my right, I pass a man in a pick-up truck. “Sir, caution!” I gesture frantically for him to pull over, “Car accident up ahead,” and he sees me and slows. I decide that I should try my brakes, I have to do something, this isn’t ending. Still I am spinning, and it’s dark, and I’m scared. I can’t see a thing. I start applying my brakes softly, hoping for a dry patch of pavement to slow me down. It works, I’m slowing. But not stopping. Still spinning and spinning and it’s never ending. I spin until the night starts to lighten, and the black turns to gray. So scared, I just continue to honk and softly brake. I try forever. Waiting for a hit, all the while. The night turns fully light. Spinning, spinning. Around and around. I spin into large parking lot of a huge business, and spin right up and in to the parked cars at the end, their occupants having vacated and gone in to work. And I stop. Alighting from the car, I look for an address. I have to call for help, I’m pretty sure I can’t drive anymore. I ask a man at a security kiosk, where am I? I need someone to come pick me up. “You sure do!” he replies. “It’s 944 Powder House Rd., Ma’am. I can’t believe you aren’t hurt. Look at your car.” I turn and look out into the sparsely occupied parking lot and spot a white van, bumper missing and rear end a bit dinged up, smushed into a small two door sports number. “That’s all??” I wonder to myself as to how little damage there is. I’m scared, I’m shaken, but not hurt. No wonder, hardly any damage. And I’m grateful, but confused, it’s was such a long, spinning, wild ride, and so I look closer. It hits me slowly. I don’t own a white van. Behind the white van, sits what used to be a black sedan. My black sedan. Almost three feet high now, the tires are gone. So is the front end. And the back end. The top is smashed onto the axles, where the backseat used to be. All windows broken, save for the front one, and the passenger seat is all but gone. Intact only, is the driver’s seat and the steering wheel. My God. I survived that?? With not a scratch, just some aches and pains from the emotional trauma and the tensed muscles of the crazy ride. I write down the address with a pen and on a piece of paper given to me by the man in the security kiosk. I know I will never remember it. Standing next to my broken car, I place a call, for help and a ride. And a man answers. “Hello,” I say. “I’ve had an accident and I need you to come get me. I’m not hurt, though.” I give the address to where I’ve ended up, far away from home, and briefly describe the ordeal. “That was you?” he replies, and it’s clear that he’s unimpressed. His tone is so unconcerned, and I’m shocked. “It’s all over the news here. About a woman in a runaway car, about how she saved a man in a truck.” Here, his voice becomes animated as he’s describing how the news stations are heralding me a heroine. Apparently I had saved that man. He’s obviously impressed by that, if not impressed by what I’d just survived. “I’ll tell you more when I see you, I’m watching now.” And he ends the call. And leaves me stuck and confused. Why wasn’t he helping me? Or concerned about my welfare? I replay the call in my head, looking for understanding as to why he was so unhelpful. Then it hits me that it was my ex-husbands voice. I had called the wrong man.” I awoke, stunned, fifteen minutes before my alarm tonight. My first reaction is euphoric, wow. That dream was definitely up there with all the tornado ones I used to have. I miss those. So entertaining! I wonder to myself what it could mean, I’ve never had an out-of-control car dream before. And I burst into tears, sobbing. It’s obvious. God was reminding me that he was there for me. He would keep me safe from harm. And I was so grateful, and feeling so blessed. But as the rest of the dream became clear, I realized there was much more to it. God would help me, yes, and always, and in all situations, as long as I had faith. But I couldn’t rest on that knowledge alone. I had to help Him. I think the dream came from where I was emotionally, something that had happened the night before. I had been anxious on my way in to work. One of my daughters, the youngest, had stapled her thumb, and I had a last minute ER visit, before my shift at 11pm. Even though this happened at her friend’s house, and under adult supervision, the questions at the emergency room were probing. As a healthcare professional, I am aware that when a child is injured, certain things need to be looked at, and certain questions need to be asked. It was clear that I had not stapled my daughter’s thumb as some punishment. It was clear that this was an accident that didn’t even happen on my watch. But the questions were unsettling to me because I am always questioning myself. As a single mother of six children, for the past eight years, I am always worried and wondering, anxious that I was doing right by them all. As we are living on an extremely tight income, and far below the “poverty line,” my household is always considered “at risk.” I know this because I am educated and aware, well-read and well-written. However, all anyone seems to notice about us is the SNAP allowance, free school lunches, and Medicaid. We ARE at risk, and it’s something I worry about. It had occurred to me, on my drive in to the hospital to work, that if scrutinized, there are admittedly a few things I struggle with. I worried about having to justify myself, in the possible future, to some CPS worker, if a mistake did happen. Possibly. And so I found myself creating some catastrophe, and how I would respond, how I would explain, in a made up scenario in my head. I created this worry for myself, and even though I knew the chances were slight, I worried. And made myself anxious in the process. To help alleviate that anxiety, I said a small prayer. If I had faith, these worries would never come to pass. After I got to work, saw all my patients, catered to their comfort and assured their safety, I did some research online about unnecessary worry. I developed a coping strategy and found a couple changes I could make that would make me feel safer. I said a prayer asking for help, and left it at that. Or so I thought, until this dream. Apparently I’m still feeling a mite anxious. Upon reflection, this dream clued me into the fact that I had been relying so much on faith lately. I clearly need to do more, a bit more, to help God help me, and not rely on the fact that I believe to be the end-all, and solver, of all my problems. I need to believe, and have faith in myself as well. It was a reminder to keep helping. Not only myself, but God; and by helping others, as I did in my dream by warning that truck driver and blowing my horn. I believe I need to do a bit more. And I wanted to share my story with you, because I’m noticing a serious lack of helping in the world right now. Life is a runaway car, after all. Help God help you, and start by looking around your life, in your circle, and help someone else. As far as calling the wrong man at the end, I think that was because I asked the wrong person for help recently. He can’t help me and he probably shouldn’t try, as he represents my once safe neighborhood, gone to seed, that I had left at the beginning of my dream. At least he can’t until he starts helping himself first. All I can do is pray that he will soon and maybe he will be able to leave that seedy neighborhood, too. And so is my wish for any of you who may be struggling right now.