Driving Slow Coming Home
I followed him home down ice-slicked roads beneath snow-feathered trees. It wasn't intentional, but that was beside the point.
There were nine of us, actually. I counted in my rearview mirror. Every car, van, SUV, and Ford rust-bucket only inches from the driver ahead of him. It's wasn't a wise motorcade, considering the condition of the roads. None of us were terribly thrilled to be going 45 in a 55, but I knew him, and that made it different. It made getting home, despite my car-load of overly tired kids, less important somehow. Friendship breeds patience.
The first car roared past us, the driver's face set in a frustrated scowl. I saw him give the driver ahead of me a pointed glance as he flew past. "Start seeing motorcycles," his bumper-sticker read, and I wondered if he did.
Two more zipped past and then another as oncoming traffic kindly accommodated. The fourth car, a sleek silver Lexus slid past and the driver gave both me and the driver ahead of me the bird. Really? REALLY? I rolled my eyes. What on earth was so urgent it required risking the lives of—I did a quick head count—six people? Not to mention his own life and the life of his middle finger? It seemed to possess a life of its own. A bitter one.
But the driver ahead of me was unfazed, as was the tiny white-haired woman in the passenger seat beside him. She reached up and patted her hair. I couldn't see her face but I knew it. Shy. Sweet. Quick to offer coffee and a comfortable chair. And he would be ready with a quick grin, willing to drop whatever he was up to and welcome me into the moment. Just to chat.
Three more cars passed and I clutched my steering wheel as oncoming traffic was forced to slow down and make room. More birds were exchanged and horns honked. I adjusted my seatbelt and settled in. We still had ten minutes before this lonely stretch of icy road rolled into town, and I was determined to see the old man and his wife all the way there.
One more car flew by, leaving just one time-starved Toyota Camry tailing us. And she wasn't there long. A teenager. Cute. Blond. Sunglasses as large as her head. Texting.
I heaved a sigh of relief as she passed safely and merged back into the right lane. My rearview mirror revealed no cars now. Only kids. Mine. Five, seven, and two. They were fine. Books, snacks, and water bottles between them, and they were oblivious to the road drama. And that's the way I liked it. I wondered if they would ever get the chance to meet the driver ahead of us. Or his wife.
Maybe. But they would never know them as I had.
I followed the old man and his wife all the way to town and blew them both a kiss as they turned off into the hospital parking lot. They didn't see me, but that was okay. She was in for her weekly radiation and I wondered how long she had now.
Not long enough. And I bet he knew that. Which is why he drove like he did. 45 in a 55.
He was making those minutes count.