I spent an irrational amount of time on Wikipedia, trying to pinpoint exactly what to call it. This half-fear, half-nerves sort of feeling that only crops up when somebody else starts putting his pedal a little too close to the pedal.
But there isn’t a word yet.
I wouldn’t say I’m afraid of car accidents, because to do so would have you picturing me cowering at the sight I passed on Sunday afternoon as a steaming pile of grass was sprayed and batted down until it stopped smoking hundreds of feet into the air.
And really, I was craning my neck to get a better angle. Sitting in stop-and-go traffic, hoping to catch a glimpse of the reason for chugging along.
So I would say this: I’m terribly good at imagining nonexistent car accidents.
It’s a sickness, really. You sit in your small little fifteen-year-old baby, begging God to just be nice for a couple hundred thousand miles more, because you’re new to this whole post-grad thing.
Before that, it was, “But I’m in college still. But I don’t have a steady income.”
Before that, “I’m just a teenager.”
I don’t remember when the imagining started. Just that it was never real bad.
Months ago, though, I caught myself covering my dropped jaw while speeding down a four-lane highway spritzed with vehicles. And you know what?
Nothing. Had. Happened.
No weaving without turn signals. No racing by in the right lane. Nothing.
I’ve had a lot of car accidents crop up in my life, but rarely were they mine. Only once did I sit in the driver’s seat shaking for a good five minutes because Taylor Swift was singing me a lullaby about making it out of this trip alive.
And I’m thinking sometimes we fear the things we cannot see or the things we imagine are just around the corner, even if they aren’t. Even if just around the corner turns into six or seven or forty-five years from now.
It’s scary, losing control. Of the steering wheel. Of your life. Of the road in front of you as you set out on a journey that you think you know by heart if you follow the signs.
But it happens to all of us. In the flash of someone else’s headlights blinding us. In the screech of someone else’s brakes stopping us. In the churning of our stomach acid when all we know, when we really sit down to think about it, is that these next five seconds are ours.
The problem, then, is not in imagining car accidents that never happen or shaking beneath our seat belt when they do. It’s in forgetting, for any length of time, that we are somehow alone in those paralyzing fears and uncontrollable tragedies.
Whether we stand, alone, off to the side and let the firefighters douse our charred car or we wrap our arms around someone much younger who needs to shield their eyes a bit longer from the reality of life, we have to remember that.
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