Driving down the highway, I notice that a spiderweb has formed on the right side-view mirror of my car. I wonder about the spider: When I return to park in front of my house, will it be able to find the web it has begun? The web that has survived the rain, the blowing wind on the highway, the rounds of birds on the power lines unconcerned about the world below them. Has the spider itself survived all these things? What a tragedy it would be, for the spider’s home to outlive it.
Turns out, the spider’s probability of reconnecting with its web doesn’t matter. On my way through a residential neighborhood, a car backs out too quickly and knocks the side-view mirror clean off of my car, taking the web with it, crashing and shattering to the ground. I consider calling the police, but I’m not entirely sure what I would say to them. Instead, I call my mom.
You call me, while I’m in the middle of talking with my mom. The phone beeps, and I take it from my ear. The screen lights up and accosts me with your name in block letters. I mumble something about needing to take the call, place my mom on hold.
“I heard you were crying in the middle of the bar the other day, is everything okay?” I don’t have time to breathe. I try anyway. Your silence is quiet, your line of questioning direct, sincere. You’re not sitting in front of me, but all of a sudden it feels that way. I think that I can hear your breath — I know that I can hear my own. You interrupt my racing mind for a moment. “Do you not want to talk about it?” For a second I think that I hear hope in your voice, that I might cut the conversation here, hang up the phone, allow you to get away, unscathed.
Instead, I stutter, falter, try to find words that will make you both stay and leave at the same time. I don’t know what to say because I have spent the entire day excavating pieces of our relationship. I’ve been trying to piece together the ones that were placed incorrectly in the hopes of righting them and blowing off the dust. It’s worked in the way that taking things apart and putting them together always works when those things are half-broken.
I would prefer to suffer in silence, rather than lean on you for the support it’s clear you no longer wish to provide.
You weren’t supposed to know I had been crying. In the past few weeks, I’ve slowly learned I would prefer to suffer in silence, rather than lean on you for the support it’s clear you no longer wish to provide. I’ve started to grow used to the way the days feel when I watch the sun rise and then set, no longer counting the minutes, the hours that have passed since I have talked to you. Now that you do know, I don’t know how to communicate this difference, this shift in my consciousness, without inadvertently chasing you away. I don’t want this to be another thing, another reason, another opportunity to lose you. Those losses hurt every time.
You get irritated, say I’m not making sense. I swallow; my throat hurts. Before I think to apologize, you’ve already said goodbye, told me you’ll see me later, hung up. A few weeks ago, I would’ve collapsed into tears, allowed the fear that this phone call meant finality to overtake me. This time, I feel relief that the conversation is over, regret that I didn’t take the out you offered when you asked if I didn’t want to talk about it.
I take my mom off of hold, try to hold in the conversation you and I just had, fail, and release it. It cracks out of me like thunder, like an ancient bone finally cracking under the weight of the world on top of it. She is kind, generous even, with the way she offers assurance of my strength. But my mind is already elsewhere. I want to know how to salvage the image you have of me, want to appear less needy. I want to discover an alternate reality, one where words don’t spill out of me and become meaningless, like rain on the surface of water.
Sometimes I lie awake at night and wonder about the way my tears fall when I don’t want them, splattering down my face and dirtying it without warning. I wonder about elasticity, the way water absorbs and is resorbed, the circular motion of breathing, conversations, relationships, most everything. Right now, in the car, is one of those times. I wonder about the way parts of me have been bent, broken, reshaped, and regrown since I met you. Am I a better person for having known you? I think so. I like to think most relationships that have taken on meaning in my life have challenged me.
When I hang up with my mom, it occurs to me that I must get out of the car to retrieve the side-view mirror. It is crushed, glass shards spread across the street and onto the sidewalk. The spiderweb is nowhere to be found; I cut my losses and brush the pieces of side-view mirror to the side of the street, get back into my car without them.
Driving home without a side-view mirror feels rushed, jittery; when I merge without looking, it feels like leaning over a precipice, holding my hands out in front of me and letting out all the air in my lungs — a sort of forced breathlessness.
I haven’t heard from you since that call. Since the day the spider and its influence were erased, since the car accident, and the call with my mom. The day that split us in half, between a before and an after.
I still think of you, though, endlessly. And I still drive on the highway.