. You don't even know
. It was fucked up."
"Okay, you want to explain?"
"Okay. Check it out. We're driving back down from Vallejo in the station wagon and Erica is kind of sleepy, right? We weren't paying attention to her really and she was in and out of the conversation in the beginning, but really it's just Paul and me talking up in the front seat. You know, she was drifting off, whatever. We didn't even think about it. I didn't think about it, anyway, I can't speak for Paul. So we're driving and Paul is going off about all this stuff about freeways, you know. At least he wasn't still yelling about how pure and manly the freeways are in LA. Like some gladiator shit."
"Right. Oooh, everyone is skating death and it all works out perfectly because everyone's merge fu down there is so awesome."
"Right, right, exactly. But anyway. Some of what he was saying was actually kind of interesting. Like, the flashing lights you sometimes see to demark- uh, denote the, like, dividers that suddenly come up? When an exit breaks off and the freeway suddenly has a wall – like those there! Like those there."
"Okay, just exits, then. Um, so, they stick up that flashing yellow light there sometimes, and - apparently, drunk drivers are attracted to the color yellow."
"F'real. F'real. Yellow actually draws drunk people to crash into the dividers more often than other kinds of lights. Or, well, I shouldn't say... he didn't actually say that, 'cause I don't know how many other colors of lights they really have. More often than dividers without the lights. I forget what exactly he said. But drunk people are attracted to yellow."
"I'll have to remember that the next time I'm at a sorority house during rush."
"Mmheh heh. Totally. So, but, we were talking about that, and we got to talking about the sort of big Rubbermaid trash-can-looking things that they put on those spots, you know, when a freeway divides for whatever reason in California, they put those trash cans in front of the actual point of the concrete."
"Oh shit, are they actually called that?"
"I dunno, that's what I call 'em."
"Yeah, see, cause, what came up is, we were talking about those things and how apparently you never see them where Paul's from."
"Right, so I just randomly say, 'think of them as rodeo clowns.' "
"Exactly. I don't really know where it came from. He started laughing just like you, and I'm like trying to explain myself, like, they're the guys who take the hit for you, you know? They throw themselves into the path. Which, first of all, they don't do. I think I was thinking of the big oil-drum things that get painted up to look like clowns in rodeos, and how funny it would be to paint big goofy faces on those bumpers on the freeway. 'Cause the bumpers are yellow, too! And then all the drunk drivers would have these big targets, you know, there are flashing yellow lights, and there are these trash-can things lined up like bowling pins with big silly faces on them, and it's like, see if you can hit them all!"
"Right. Maybe CalTrans would get behind it if I proposed it, you know. Kind of a Darwinism thing. But anyway, we're jabbering in the front seat about rodeos and Erica makes this noise in the back seat, sort of this waking-up noise, but like a little kid like half-waking up from a nightmare. It was cute at the time. And Paul got a little bit quiet at that point. I just assumed he was reacting like, uh oh, I woke up the sleeping girlfriend. But he also got a little weird about it, and I was about to call him on it, because I'm like, what's the problem all of a sudden? But it wasn't long after that that we both started to notice that we were on the wrong freeway."
"Yyyeah. And we had no idea how long we'd been going the wrong way or what freeway it was for a while. So we're just watching these unfamiliar town names go by on the signs for a while, when – hallelujah - an In-N-Out Burger."
"Yeah. That's what I was saying. And, you know, by the time you've got enough civilization for an In-N-Out, they have signs telling you what freeway you're on. So we weren't totally fucked at that point, but we still wanted to pull over, right? And Erica had said before we started that she really wanted to eat, and Paul thought this might perk her up."
"So we get out the car, and Paul opens the back door for Erica, and she says something I can't hear, and in a few seconds, it's just clear, right, it's just clear that it's become one of those moments when people other than the girlfriend and the boyfriend just should not be within earshot. She's just tired and waking up and cranky, I figure, but still, you know, when the girlfriend gets randomly weepy all of a sudden about something, you just don't get involved, right? I was just like, turn around and head into the restaurant."
"So - Paul follows me in after a minute, he's clearly a little spooked, right, so I just start making In-N-Out conversation. And there isn't really a line or anything, but there's a bunch of farmer's kids in the corner getting their late Saturday night on, whatever. Whatever you have to do for thrills in the central valley."
"There's like two people in line, and it takes a while to get your burger, and we're just sitting on the little waiting bench not really talking but it was fine, you know? We were just sitting there, whatever, mesmerized by the fry-cutting machine."
"Yeah. But then after a few minutes, it seemed like Paul kind of had an oh-yeah moment, and he asked me to go out and ask Erica if she wanted anything, And I said yeah, sure, thinking, this is cool, this is a good peace-making move, actually, to send me out there. So I head back out there and I look in the car and she's not in there. The door's unlocked. I don't see her around the parking lot. And, you know, I'm aware that this is a cliché from out of bad TV movies but I am not technically freaking out yet or anything. That's when I hear this noise, and I look over towards the freeway, 'cause, okay, the In-N-Out is right off this road that's right parallel to the freeway, and there's this little mound of brush and then the little foot-high freeway wall is right there. In fact, the top of the exit that we took when we saw the In-N-Out is right there."
"And I look out there and I see that someone about Erica's size and shape is doing something to one of those trash-can bumper things."
"What the fuck?"
"Seriously. She's like, she's got the lid off of it, right? And she's reaching in there with both hands and clutching at as much gravel as she can claw out, you know, like a penny-arcade claw machine, she's not getting very much at a go but she's just going at it and going at it and tossing the stuff at the ground like she's trying to break it."
"Exactly. And I'm trotting over there, you know, hopping over the little wall and hoping to fuck there are no cops around, right? And as soon as I got onto the freeway she's talking like I'm right next to her, I can barely hear her, it's like she's talking to herself. I'm trying to ask her, you know, what the fuck are you doing out here? And by the time I finish the sentence I can tell she's just talking, not even looking at me, going 'just go away, this doesn't concern you, just leave me the fuck alone, just turn around and walk away and let me do this.' Just over and over while she's digging this crap out of this thing she's opened up. And I'm just about to lose my patience, you know, she's been fucking weird and random all day and all night and won't tell anybody what the fuck is up. So I just put a hand on her far shoulder and started pulling her away, you know, and saying, look at what you're doing, this is fucking crazy, get the fuck off the freeway, you're crazy. And she chucks some more gravel on the ground just to get her hands free so she can throw my hand off her shoulder, and I'm like, that's it. You're done. I grab the lid of this thing off the ground and start looking at it trying to see how to put it back on, right? And she shoves me. She shoves me, hard, right into the road. Not the road, but the off ramp part of the road. And, you know, it takes me a minute to get up because I'm surprised and everything. And neither of us were really paying attention to anything else at that point."
"So a car hit you."
"It didn't hit me hit me. It had actually mostly come to a stop and I was able to get -"
"I know it didn't hit you."
"Yeah. So, these married doctors in their fifties are suddenly on the scene, the woman's upset, the guy's trying not to yell and is actually pretty concerned, you know, he was decent. And soon Paul is there and so are the cops."
"That's not even the good part, dude, listen to this. It turns out that when Paul made the crack about being a hick and we kind of heard Erica wake up? She didn't wake up, she'd been awake. She'd been listening to us without us knowing, and she made that noise because, apparently, they had this enormous argument the day before - and, like, have been having them - where Paul's been calling Erica a hick, or so she says."
"That’s bad, isn’t it."
"Yeah. Or, you know, that's what she says. Who the fuck knows what he really said to her, if anything."
"You know, like, selective hearing. Or more like... fucking... reality distortion or... whatever, you know? I don't even know how she's... I mean, I guess that's common enough, you know? People get into a relationship and they're, exposed to their insecurities or whatever, and they develop this, way of seeing everything whatever way they want, right?"
"And who the fuck knows why they want it. I'm not even gonna speculate. I mean, like, they didn't arrest Erica because, they were saying, you know, like, you could be arrested, you could be charged, and all that. They didn't say she had to undergo psychiatric treatment or anything, although one of them kinda discussed it. But I'm like, if it were me, it's like, it's not even a punitive thing, you know, just drop them off at a nice facility where they can get that need taken care of, and their insurance will either take care of it or not, just like car insurance."
"'Cause, you know, other people are out here, right? If you can't relate to all the other people out there in the space outside your own goddamned head, you've just got to learn, okay? I've got no sympathy for that. You know, I mean, Erica's a sweet girl and everything, but, you know, if no one else will take care of your shit - and they won't - then just go and don't come back until you do."
"Like, past a certain point, I’m just not gonna have it in my life. If you’re manic depressive, or if you’re borderline, uh, personality, or whatever – you know, if you have something with an acronym or… if you have a real diagnosis, is what I’m saying, or if you have medical agreement that one of these things is what’s wrong with you, then I don’t need you in my life, you know? That’s a point where you can come up to me and say, ‘look, we’re friends, you’ve known me this long,’ and this and that, and, you know, you could say to me, ‘can you help me?’ and I’d just be like, ‘No.’ You know? I mean, I hate to say it but it’s true."
"Hey, did we miss our exit?"