The gas station lights were bright, flooding the entire street corner with a brightness unnatural for this time of night. I drove up behind another white car. It was at a pump but the pump was no longer being used. The car was sitting there quietly, with the owner inside. The stillness of the air of the bright corner gave me the willies. They ran up my spine like little black fleas in a dog’s coat. I went inside the snack shop searching for my driving snack.
Peanut butter M&Ms were a habit that I had stopped a month after my summer of long drives ended. I realized I no longer had to keep myself awake. 400 miles in a day was unheard of in this vignette. In my last one, vignette I mean, it was a daily happening. Peanut butter M&Ms and Dr. Pepper were what kept me awake, and my passengers alive on those long days of flat drives. I think Texas was the worst. In Tennessee there was the novelty of armadillo road kill and in Mississippi it was green. So many different shades of green. Mississippi introduced me to hues I may never see again. And the Louisiana Bayous kept my brain thinking for hours. How does this place feel so completely different from home? Are there crocodiles in there? What would happen if I drove the van in? Would it sink slowly through the mush, or all at once? Texas was definitely the worst.
In a way Peanut Butter M&Ms saved my life. I wonder if that is what addicts think as a rationalization. I’m sure it’s not an original one reserved for my chocolate and peanut butter incased in a sugary shell cravings. The shell is the best part. You have to squish it so that the edges crack and the chocolate is more readily available. Washing it down with a big swig out of my big gulp of Dr. Pepper, it was the perfect jolt of energy.
Tonight I went inside the snack shop, the pump would not take my debit card, and searched for my driving snack. I was disappointed to find Peanut, Crispy, and Original. Yellow, Green, and Brown. The man behind the counter was small. English was not his first language, made apparent from his broken grammar.
“What you looking for?” He asked softly.
“Peanut Butter M&Ms. Do you have Peanut Butter M&Ms?”
“Yes. They right there.”
He pointed at the yellow pack.
“No I mean Peanut Butter.” I repeat.
“You still don’t see?”
He giggled at my blindness to the Peanut M&Ms.
“Ok, these will do I guess.” I smiled. I don’t think he could detect my disappointment behind my curled lips.
“Would you like anything else?”
“Yes a full tank of gas.”
I point to my car. The car has black specks covering it. The dirt is becoming more of the paint on a daily basis. They aren’t noticeable from here.
“Ok you want anything else? A free carwash?”
I look up at him. I can’t tell if this is a joke. It is 10pm . My perception of reality is slightly skewed after spending 8 hours in a house full of women who are recovering from addictions. Crying, and whispering, and runaways, and suicidal ideations and laughing, and isolation and drama with their husbands and boyfriends and girlfriends and hugs and support and screaming and Fuck you’s and Bitches and I love yous.
And a Jacuzzi exploding in bubbles as I watch from the office. It resembled expired milk seeping from the edges of the pool not prepared for such an event. It was not able to contain them. The bubbles seeped, as I imagine my van would in the Bayous of Louisiana, over the edges and down onto the dirty sidewalk, filled with cigarette ash. It is cleaned daily, but like my car, the black specks are slowly becoming part of the gray cement. Seeping into the pores and the cracks. Not even these spewed bubbles will help.
Do I want a free carwash? I think inside my own brain. I laugh. Maybe the specks are more noticeable than I thought.
“No thank you.”
And so I fill my gas tank. I drive North on the dark road with scattered red lights. I try hard to reacclimatize to life not surrounded by addiction. It is easy enough for me, having only Peanut Butter M&Ms to ward off. However I worry about my girls. Young and vulnerable and sometimes crazy, but mostly just like anybody else looking for the highs that keep you wanting to live. Or the numbness that keeps you from thinking about Everything. Because really Everything is overwhelming.
I have hope. Really there isn’t a choice. Hope is necessary. Hope makes Everything less overwhelming.