It’s true what they say. When you think you’re about to die, time stops and visions really do flash in front of your eyes. At least it was true for me on that dusky rainy evening I lost control of my roommate’s car and whirled helplessly into a grassy ditch. In that instant the car felt like the teacup ride at Disneyland except in slow motion. My parents, our mutt Josie, the grandparents and my older, prettier sister appeared vividly in my mind’s eye. I saw the momentary horror in their faces, then their angry disapproval over another spectacularly bad choice. That’s the moment I got religion and prayed they would never have to know. But two weeks later after repeated scolding by my roommate, I began to think my family was actually a bunch of cream puffs.
“Oh gosh, please don’t rag on me about this again!” I pleaded with her.
“Well gee. Sorry you’re bored with the topic but I am still out my car,” said Cara, sitting in one of the kitchen chairs, one leg curled underneath her, arms folded over her chest, her face frowning.
“OK. Well, I don’t know how many times I can say I’m sorry but for about the millionth time I am sorry. I really do think you should acknowledge the fact that if you had decent tires on the thing, I probably wouldn’t have spun out. And you aren’t exactly ‘out a car’. The fender got banged up. After the guy pulled it away from the wheel that night, I drove the death trap back home.” I said leaning against the kitchen counter and feeling backed into that all familiar corner.
“Listen, college girlie, this might not be a big deal to you but it is to me. I don’t have a Mommy and Daddy that’ll buy tires for me and pay my way through life.”
“I know.” I was hoping to sooth her feathers and said “I’m going to the junk yard with Tom over the weekend to see if we can get another bumper. This is the third; count it, third place we are going to try. But I know we’ll find it this time and Tom’ll put it on and then you’ll never be able to tell it ever happened.”
Tom was the reason I was in this mess so it was only fair that he sweat a few bullets over it with me. I was on my way over to see him the night of the crash. He had pulled this whole dramatic, ‘poor me, you don’t love me, I think I’ll die’ scene at work that day. I had thought that I could save him from himself with a surprise evening of romance. The evening held a surprise all right, but not the one I had hoped for.
“Oh sure, Tom, Tom. Your summer fling couldn’t find his way around a tool box if his life depended on it,” she rolled her eyes at me as she said it.
“Yes but he’s a scientist. You know, works with his brains, not really a do-it-your-self-er,” I said in his defense. “But I’ll help him. He and I can do it together. Please just forget about the whole thing, I promise we’ll fix it for you.
“Boy, your life is so easy; college preppy with a rich family. You don’t even have to work but then you get handed the best seasonal job with the company. A cushy job in the lab, not outside in the summer heat like me. In another month when the work is over you get to leave this dump and go back to school. I’ll get to go on unemployment,” she wailed.
There was no escape for me now. I slumped into the chair across the table from her for the next twenty minutes while Cara proceeded to point out every single difference between us in excruciating detail as if our life experiences were the result of some cosmic conspiracy to favor me and reject her at every turn.