It was past midnight, and I’d just sped out of my driveway like a NASCAR racer who somehow missed the starting gun. I got to the end of my street and looked both ways. I could turn left to go east, which would lead me straight into town, or I could turn right and go west, which would lead me out of town.
I drove west.
I didn’t really know where I was going; I was just driving. I needed to get away. I couldn’t be home anymore. It wasn’t like I was in a fight with my husband or anything…I just needed out. I was in a fight with my brain. Unfortunately, my brain has a tendency to follow me no matter which way I drive, but that didn’t stop me from driving.
It’s probably for the best that there is no major airport near my house, or you can bet I would have driven there, even with no luggage, and said, “Put me on the first flight to anywhere out of here.”
Sometimes I need to escape, and what sucks about bipolar disorder is that I cannot. There is nowhere to fly, there is nowhere to drive, there is nowhere that I can escape from myself. Do you know how frickin terrifying that feels?
I kept driving west.
I drove fast. Too fast. It was past midnight, and the further I got from town the further I got away from any cops. It probably wasn’t safe, but I also didn’t care. Memories flashed in front of me like a highlight reel from a string of movies that I would give anything to forget: MRI machines. Needles pulling blood six vials at a time. The sterile environment of doctors’ offices. That weird endocrinologist who was obsessed with osteoporosis. The psychiatrist who wouldn’t listen to me. The psychiatrist who did and got it wrong. The therapist who made me work with seashells (SEASHELLS), like that was going to somehow fix things. My husband’s cousin who tried to sleep with me. The raccoon running in front of me.
Oh crap! That was a real raccoon. Not a memory. Eeeek! Don’t hit the raccoon!
Phewf. The raccoon was safe in the woods. I turned the music up louder to drown out my thoughts. I didn’t know the song.
I kept driving west.
I probably should have turned around. My husband didn’t know where I was. I got a text from him a few minutes after I left asking where I had gone. I didn’t text back. Texting and driving is dangerous, you see. If I was texting him, I might not have seen the deer on the side of the road that was ready to run into my headlights. Michigan is full of weird creatures trying to cross roads in the middle of the night. Not a single car was out, but tons of animals were. I tried to focus on looking for deer, my music was as loud as it could go, and still the tears came. Still the memories wouldn’t stop:
There was the prescription in my purse that I refuse to go fill. The empty orange pill bottles filling various drawers in my house. SO. MANY. PILL BOTTLES. I don’t know why I keep them all. The pile of bills on my counter that keeps getting higher as I keep forgetting to pay them. The secret. The smiling faces of my students who don’t understand what a triumph it is for me to even get to work in the morning.
I kept driving west.
If you look at Michigan’s lower peninsula on a map, you’ll see that if you drive west for long enough, you’ll eventually get to Lake Michigan. “Lake” is kind of a misnomer, as this lake is so huge it might as well be an ocean. You can’t see the other side of it. It would take fifteen hours to drive around it. It’s not called a “Great Lake” for nothing. Before I knew what I was doing, I’d arrived at the lake. I was surprised, as I’d lost track of time while driving. How could I possibly be at the lake? Didn’t I leave the house five minutes ago? Apparently not. I drove through the sleeping seaside town, past the “no parking” signs, and all the way to the beach itself. My tires were in the sand. I didn’t know why I was there, but I had arrived.
I opened my car door and got out because I couldn’t drive any further. The clouds covered the moon and stars, leaving the sky a dull black. I pulled my jacket close as the January wind whipped my hair around my face. I looked and saw the lighthouse lit up, giving me enough light to look around. I bent down and let the sand run through my fingers, wishing for summer. Last summer, before everything fell apart? This coming summer, when I’ll hopefully be a little healthier? I didn’t know. I just wished. I looked all around and didn’t see a single soul. To have the entire beach to myself was very strange, as usually in the summer it’s so busy that I can barely find a place to lay my towel. I breathed in the fresh air and peered into the darkness that was Lake Michigan, but I couldn’t see the water – only a large expanse of blackness. It felt like looking into my life; an empty, endless darkness with only question marks where there should be hopes and dreams.
The sound and smell of the lake was calming, but the darkness was creepy. I don’t think there are many serial killers in Michigan, but I would have been perfect prey if one happened to be stalking the beach that night. No one even knew where I was. Finally I sighed, knowing that my sudden and impulsive mini-road trip was over. I had to go back, solving exactly nothing, but there was nowhere west left to drive.