I put a lot of pressure on myself.
Pressure to be a good daughter. Pressure to perform as a writer. Today I’m going to throw all that aside. I want to work on on writing creatively and freely from personal experience, without the expectation to produce a perfect article. Who cares? It’s my life. And my life is worth it.
Stories are gold. Writing and sharing personal experiences cause people to connect and find their humanity. Stories are funny and messy, especially the embarrassingly true ones, and I realized today that’s more gold than the best polished essay.
This story was one of my favorite nights of all of 2019. It feels like a dream that fades more and more with every hour I move away from it, and I don’t want to lose the details.
I, for one, will be telling this fucking story to my grandchildren. Then when I’m old and decrepit in a nursing home, I’ll tell and retell it to my partner to make them laugh. Please enjoy.
I left my parents house for my apartment at 7pm on November 30, 2019, two days after Thanksgiving. I sang classic rock alongside radio channel 101.3 the whole way home.
My boyfriend drove an hour to meet me there.
We planned to leave for opening night of the Miracle on 34th Street light show in Baltimore straight away, but I couldn’t steal back to the bathroom to finish getting ready.
He insisted peppering me with kisses was more important. Jokingly trying to pull away meant I wanted to stay in his arms. He understood this.
Finally, we left at 9:06pm.. he got carsick. We chatted about parental tropes and him looking like an absolute dad reading Peanuts comics to my cousin on Thanksgiving while I drove.
He rolled down his window to ease the nausea, and I felt the winter breeze whistle in, brushing past my cheeks. In the distance, Baltimore’s city lights moved ever closer, a marching band floating in the dark.
We parked on Hampden street.
We escaped our warm, comforting shower into the freezing, 30 degree air. I shivered, and our hands exchanged places, a spitting image of Catfish and the Bottlemen’s artwork on The Balcony.
No alcohol en bloodstream but a little high nonetheless, pockets full of each other, we strode onto 34th street.
I gasped, letting the small child in me emerge.
34th street was lit up with an ostentatious display of festive lights. About 20 homes sat blinking with a million, starry eyes, real-life cookie bread houses drowned in decorative apparel.
Digital light shows danced across windows, illuminating Nativity displays and model trains hooting through billowing, fake snow. Orange, blinking crabs crawled across lawns while mischevious elves and foxes tip-toed on the house rims, laughing, observing the folks below.
Crowds milled across the neighborhood street, smiling sweetly at the lights and cuddling their loved ones. Walking onto the scene was like strolling, mini-size through a guts of a Christmas tree.
We took a totally disgusting photo in front of Captain Morgan’s twinkling crab ship, and he laughed while I danced around him to the vaguely swing-esqe music I heard from a nearby bar.
“Totally disgusting,” I write. Yet I’m hiding a smile, because I remember how I looked at him that night, how he held me.
He pulled me back to the car playfully.
At 10pm, little sister called, frantic, about to call the fire squad over her laptop not working. We helped her fix it.
Then we drove to the Blue Moon cafe.
My boyfriend found a wonderful parking spot and out of nowhere, kissed me on the desolate street like he was Alfred Eisenstaedt’s U.S. navy sailor laying it on that nurse on V-J day in Time Square.
Reeling, and feeling quite a bit infatuated and lucky, I snagged his arm and we strolled to the cafe.
We sat down hungrily. After some friendly banter with the waiter, he piggy-backed off a joke I made and convinced them to bring us an extra cinnamon roll because it was my birthday (it wasn’t).
We began chatting, and couldn’t stop for three hours. He was a good listener, well-spoken, passionate… even when I challenged him on democracy in the context of Catalonian independence.
He’s an optimistic, patriotic moderate. I’m a cynical, very unpatriotic, liberal-leaning moderate and he let me speak my thoughts. Voice my disdain for so-called american culture.
He stoked my inner fire for discussion, even pissed me off a little.
As I was mid-thought, he stole some of my whipped cream bananas and held them ransom for a kiss. A modern day hacker, he took his bounty and the goods too, leaving me one kiss + a few banana slices short.
Out for revenge, I hogged the rest of the banana slices, laughing, and wiped whipped cream on his face.
Oh, then the whipped cream wars were on.
We laughed so hard we cried. I think the whole cafe heard us, but I didn’t care. This is what life was about.
Very few times in my life have I been so provoked and so obsessed with any particular human. Perhaps Haley Williams (Paramore) was onto something in 2009, and I’m on my way to believing.
After some late-night cafe hip hop, off we went home.
We were two miles out of Baltimore, southbound on the highway when we heard a dangerously expensive noise.
POP POP *sound of crunching metal*
My car began veering right towards the concrete barrier, pulling the skin on my hands as I gripped the wheel. I breathed in sharply, pressing the brakes, my eyes darting to the mirrors.
Cars were zooming up behind us, and his voice was a distant sound dwarfed in a wind tunnel, as I briefly considered the possibility of a collision.
Injury. Death. Oh, was this it? —
Seconds later the car lurched to a stop, safely beached on the exit 50 shoulder. “Don’t get out,” he barked, concerned for my safety, and jumped out to check the wheel. It was ground to a pulp.
Suddenly, lights blared down upon us. A cop ran up and inquired as to our situation, barely audible above the wild stampede of traffic, then moved us to a safe shoulder. We called roadside assistance.
Wait time of 50 minutes.
We both breathed out loud sighs of frustration, then caught each other’s gaze and just… laughed.
I couldn’t function on no sleep. He had to be up by 9am for his sister’s holiday lunch. Of course we were stranded on the side of a fucking Baltimore highway in the dead of night. It was comical.
“Shit, what do we do now?” I asked, chuckling. He glanced over again, this time eyeing me invitingly.
I raised my eyebrows. Oh, hell no. My type of classy doesn’t get down in a half-fogged car on the side of the highway. We would have enough time though… my mind explored the idea, wickedly.
Still thinking, I crawled over to the passenger seat and wrapped us in my down feather coat. Damn he felt good.
For how many hours was I going to ponder a new experience each time before I made the decision to have fun?
God, I was so horrible at having fun.
Almost on cue for a film, it began raining.
Blood. Blood, ladies and gentlemen.
I’d been feeling quite off earlier in the evening, but determinedly ignored it in favor of having a gallant time. Well, guess what? My body pulled that monthly cycle bullshit on me with barely any warning signs! Don’t you love being a woman?
So there we were, tangled up in the passenger seat of my car, a busy beehive of motorcars flying past, rain dripping down the fogged windows, and blood all over both our hands.
We may have well just MURDERED someone and stuffed him in the trunk to pull plausible deniability. Oh my god.
Needless to say, I was low-key mortified, but tried not to let it show as we… um, searched for napkins in the glove compartment and leftover Burger King bag in the backseat.
Then finally, a solution dawned dawned on me and we spent a lovely, serene moment cleaning blood off our body parts with the rain droplets stuck to the outside of my car windows.
Life is great, really.
In a humorously morbid sort of way.
THIS IS WHAT REAL LIFE IS FOLKS.
We spent the next ten minutes cuddling and tiredly singing Little Mermaid songs until our salvation roared to a stop on the shoulder, rumbling, spitting dust. We squinted.
My dashboard window gleamed with the blinding glare of tow truck lights. Happy bloody Thanksgiving.