footprints on the other side
(pulls me over and it drags me under)
It's three o'clock in the morning, and I've been driving for nineteen hours. I don't know where I am and I have no concept of how to get home from here, if home is even standing, or what I would find there, should I stumble upon it.
I think I'm in Wisconsin. I don't have any evidence of this, but the roads are that kind of empty you only find in really out-of-the-way places, and the last car I saw had a Wisconsin tag. I can't find a hotel at this time of morning, and don't have the energy to try besides, so I get off the road at Exit 65, take a detour down a spooky, tree-lined road, and pull off onto the shoulder to sleep. I lock my doors, turn off the engine, pull out a blanket I've had shoved in the backseat for about ever, and recline the seat.
It isn't until I've tossed and turned and shivered and pulled my knees up to my chest and covered everything but my head with the blanket that it occurs to me that I won't be able to sleep. It has nothing to do with the way my breath is fogging up the window, or with the Sleepy-Hollow-style woods I'm stuck in, or with the uncomfortable seat.
I didn't mean to be driving so long, and I didn't mean to go this far. The idea was to drive around the city for a while to clear my head, but I saw the turn onto the Interstate and I just had to get away. I've been listening to the same CD on repeat for the entire duration of the trip, so each hour has just melted into the next. In a way, it feels like I'm back where I started.
I can't turn off my thoughts. It isn't even stress, it's -- it's like I'm being dragged somewhere. It's like a nightmare, a waking nightmare, where the only truly frightening thing is that I'm paralyzed in my sleep, that all the mundane things I can usually escape from have me by the neck. It's like I'm drowning in my own mind.
I left everything behind when I left -- cell phone, clothes, toiletries. All I have is fifteen dollars in my wallet, a nearly maxed-out credit card, and a gas tank hovering on empty. I have one jacket and this blanket and the pair of flimsy ballet flats I put on this morning when I crawled out of bed. I have the keys to an apartment nineteen hours away and one massively overplayed CD.
Is this what hitting bottom is supposed to feel like? And shouldn't I have noticed that I was closing in on the edge sometime before falling off it? And what did my roommates do when they came home from work and found that I wasn't there? Who might be looking for me? Where might they look? Where am I? How did I end up here? Why did I end up here?
The silence hurts, a sharp, almost physical pain somewhere in the back of my throat, spreading up my spine and through my nerves to the tips of my fingers and the soles of my feet. I draw my knees tighter to my chest and bite my tongue, hard. It doesn't clear my thoughts, but it does bring me back to the car. I stare out the window into the darkness.
God, it's beautiful.
I'm alone and no one knows where I am and it's so cold I can't even cry and my legs are shaking and the edges of the car feel like they're closing in on me and the breath I draw in is searing its way down my windpipe, burning into my lungs. So cold it feels like heat, freezing me from the inside out. I turn on the car so I don't die of hypothermia.
Or is that what I came here for?
I draw the blanket closer.