My aunt Lucy was unable to travel in any car that she wasn’t driving. If she didn’t drive, she claimed, she would immediately become ill. On a sick note of irony, she insisted on driving with two feet, one on the gas and one on the brake, often simultaneously, making even the most steeled stomach to heave with nausea. And in the back seat, where I now sat, riding through the Wyoming desert, the car-sickness was magnified.
Annabelle, my cousin, looked over at me, confused on how to forgive me for not being a bridesmaid in her wedding.
“I couldn’t wear the strapless dress, Annabelle, I don’t have any boobs!”
But she looked away, disgusted. We all knew this was not the issue at hand.
Out the window I saw two Indians walking along the side of the road. They couldn’t have been older that ten or twelve. Where were they going? I could see nothing for miles around but desolation. I knew my aunt would never consider giving them a ride. “Those Indians will rob you faster than light,” she’s said a million times.
I turned my attention back to Annabelle and told her what I’d been wanting to say for two and a half years: “And you were so nasty to me at my wedding,” I looked at my aunt, “both your little mouths were screwed up tight like you’d been sucking on lemons.”
They just rode, staring straight ahead.
“My whole wedding was ruined on account of the rotten looks on both your faces.”
After my wedding, neither my aunt, nor Annabelle, nor anyone on their side of the family was permitted to talk to me for two years. All because they didn’t approve of the man I was marrying. Only six months ago, when my aunt was diagnosed with cancer, would she let me come over to bring her some flowers. The issue managed to stay quiet until this car ride, on our way to Uncle Jesse’s funeral.
In a moment my emotions overwhelmed me. I wanted a response, an apology, but my aunt’s face remained blank and silent, as well as Annabelle’s. I could handle it no more.
“Let me out!” I screamed, and they both jumped at my sudden fury. “Let me the fuck out of this car!”
My aunt looked positively scared! Her feet, which had been pressing both the gas and the brake lightly, switched pressure to mostly just the brakes and the car came to a halt in the lonely road. Perhaps they thought we would just talk.
I flew out the car door, like a lark. I made a beeline perpendicular to the road, straight out into the desert, where only Indians knew how to survive. I don’t think that either one of them even thought to pursue me, they were so startled.
I ran and ran, and time ceased to exist. When I stopped running I only walked, and as the day wore on I became thirsty, and quite confused. Climbing up a hill of loose rocks I fell and fell again. When I got to the top of the hill I found another road, smaller than our other road. This I would follow until I found an establishment that served refreshments. This I would follow until I fell down into a deep slumber, resting my face on the searing blacktop.
My eyes opened and I sat up among white crisp sheets. My father in law, Aaron, stood in the room, and when he saw that I was awake he seemed surprised to even find me there.
“Well, don’t be alarmed. I too was required to come here once.”
“Hi Aaron,” I rubbed my eyes and thought of what he said. “What are you talking about?” My room was much like a hospital room, but cozier, more personal. A few of my own belongings had even been brought there. A picture of my five children rested on the bed stand. I specifically remember picking out the white shabby chic frame.
“What happened after I fell asleep yesterday?” I asked, since Aaron didn’t answer my first question.
He seemed to at least think on this one. “You didn’t... fall asleep yesterday. You fell asleep about three weeks ago.”
“They found you in the desert, you just weren’t in your right mind Emily, it’s no wonder you don’t remember,” said Aaron.
I had lost my mind in the desert, and now I was in a mental hospital. I began to cry. At this, Aaron came and sat on my bed, holding my hand in his.
“It’s okay.” He said, emphasizing okay. “Like I said, I’ve been to this very same hospital myself,” He looked around the room, as if visualizing the structure beneath, “possibly this very same room. It’s not a bad thing. Once in a while, a person’s mind just needs to rest.”
“Who’s taking care of my babies?” I said.
Over the next few days, I came to know the hospital and the staff. They watched me with obvious relief on their faces. What I had been during the three weeks prior was evidently something quite different. They would not say what it was I had been doing, but I could tell it was not “sleeping”. Every muscle in my body ached as if I had been in a marathon, and there were multiple pin pricks along the veins of my arms.
In the drawer next to my bed was a neat picture stack of friends and family members. My nurse was delighted that I recognized and named off each one. But at the bottom of the stack was a picture I had never seen before, of a man I knew well. His name was Trevor, and the picture in my hand must have been taken upon his own release from a hospital, although his was a drug rehab rather than one geared toward mental disturbances. His cheeks were round, his skin well hydrated, he looked so healthy, I almost didn’t recognize him. I knew that two months after this photo’s creation, Trevor died when his car hit black ice. Though this event was three years in the past, the memory paralyzed me with grief and I began to cry, quite beyond my own control.
In my periphery, I saw male nurses jump to attention.