It was the darkest of days. The sky looked like the bath water of a chimney sweep and the air was pungent with decay from the surrounding forest and gardens. This was the third day of heavy rain and I had just about had enough of it. By some divine coincidence I had managed to leave class and make it to my car in between the brief pauses in the storms but today my luck had run out.
It was a wonderful thing to attend a university surrounded by a nature reserve but it also meant that thousands of tiny black Lovebugs had an endless amount of space to reproduce into black swarms that drunkenly bumbled about the air like Football fans the day after Superbowl. It was infuriatingly amazing how they were able to dodge the constant sheets of rain. It was like a force field was protecting them from the rain just long enough to get tangled up in my hair.
I stood there under the awning of the front building, remembering where I had parked.
All the way at the back of the lot. My car locator app said .984 miles away.
What was that? Some kind of death sentence? This backpack was weighing on my back with the stacks of textbooks crammed into every possible nook and cranny of its interior. I used a backpack made for hunting purposes so I could get a nice refreshment straw attached but I had to remove it to make room for an analysis of Richard the III. As if he couldn’t get any more foul, his very presence in the curriculum had robbed me of convenient hydration.
Rain was coming from every direction. My poor little black umbrella didn’t stand a chance. I checked the weather report.
Big ole thunder cloud emoticons all day long.
This was it. My fate was already sealed. I was going to walk out there and melt. My skin would sizzle and I would join the puddles as they ran together and swirled into the storm drains. They would find my backpack and assume a hiker had gotten lost on the trails. Panic would ensue and then they’d all laugh when they realized the mistake they’d made and perhaps feel bad about it as they tossed rose petals into the drain at my memorial.
Stop being dramatic.
Fine. I mean worse things could happen to better people. I could slip and everyone would see my Ellen Degeneres shorts. Or worse, the prickly legs my goosebumps had given me.
Either way this was going to be horrid.
And so, like the ceremonial ripping of a bandaid, I decided to make a mad run for it and get it over as quickly as possible. I did a zipper check on my bag and tucked my electronics into the waterproof compartment, adjusted my keys to an easily accessible position that may or may not have been located in my bra, and gripped my umbrella as if I expected it to lift and take me with it into the air.
As I stepped out from the awning and into the lot I realized that I had not been far off from the reality. The wind thrashed my skirts and the rain stung my cheeks. The wet edges of the hems were already slapping against my skin and I had only just stepped out. I felt like a sick art house rendition of Marilyn Monroe with a commentary on some kind of vegan cheerios with underlying tones of feministic sea turtles.
I gripped the umbrella tighter and pulled it as close to my head as possible to keep the drops from blinding me. Eyeliner was already dripping into my eyes.
Oh, God, it burned with the fury of a thousand suns. I felt like I had just Oedipus’ed myself with the London Look. Where was my car? Is this what those stupid bugs were really going through?
I turned in the direction of where I parked and began the saddest trot of my life. I was cold, wet, and the back pack felt like I was carrying a 5th grader to safety. I now recognize that I should never be in any type of rescue situation. If I had been cast as Forrest Gump the scene of him carrying Bubba through the jungle would have had to have been scrapped in favor of a more Peeta Mellark type rescue situation where me and the rest of the guys paint ourselves as various shrimp dishes and hope no one steps on us until help arrives.
I pressured on through the onslaught of freezing water and wind and hugged the umbrella handle close. It was hardly effective on the horizontal waves but I kept going. My poor Toms were soaked and with every step my toes grew increasingly numb.
I could see my car now. It was a bit taller than the surrounding vehicles. A faint black outline on the horizon a few more yards away. I could almost feel my heater and the softness of the leather seats. I picked up my pace and with every movement, the backpack jostled and a textbook hit me right in the tailbone.
Salvation peered like a beacon over the sea of raindrops bouncing off the roofs of cars. Just had to get to the car. I adjusted the straps on my shoulders to give my poor back some relief as I hobbled along. My teeth chattered and I sloshed through more puddles as my hair deflated into a suffocating curtain.
Other students more fortunate that I, with far superior first-row parking, began to pass me as I wove through the lanes of cars. It was like a silent funeral procession for my dignity. Tires rippled through the standing water and their passengers stared at me. I stopped to wait for traffic to pass and the line to the exit just happened to back up just enough to cause a car to stop in front of me. I looked at the driver and he looked at me with an expression usually reserved for those rescued animal commercials.
In the arms of the angel
Fly awaaaaaaay from here
I looked into his eyes through my matted curtain of hair. I could feel his discomfort as I set the full force of my unfeeling gaze on the square frames of his thick rimmed glasses. He sipped his mystery beverage from a Starbucks cup.
Look at me, dammit. Look at me, you Mumford and Sons-looking bastard.
I bet it was a hot beverage. I could practically feel the steam on the tip of my nose. What was that? Soy Chai? Something in me wanted to use the last bit of strength I had left to punch right through that glass and pour that hot, sugary nectar of the Gods all over myself just to feel something.
The driver uncomfortably shifted in his chair and tested his brakes, shifting as close as possible to the car ahead of him. I bet the inside of that car felt amazing. It probably smelled like patchouli, but I bet it was warm and dry. Bon Iver was avoiding eye contact with me now. I understood. I looked as if a video of me would lead to certain death exactly seven days after its viewing.
God, help me.
I slumped through the lane, passing in front of Iron & Wine’s car. With one last emotionless look into his reflection-less frames, I continued on my trek through the icy blasts of rain. I felt like I was taking a spring stroll through the cockles of Hillary Clinton’s heart. I kept going.
Four rows left.
There it was. My shelter. With every ounce of willpower left I sprinted to the car, thanking every deity in existence. I got to the back of the car and then noticed the car next to me. They had parked insanely close to me. Close enough to be overlapping the wide yellow lines declaring my territory.
I side-shuffled to my door, scraping my knees against the rough dents of the neighboring car, and pulled the handle. It would open more than two inches.
I shut the door again and pulled, praying for a miracle. Two inches.
“NO, GOD! PLEASE, JESUS, WHY? NO!”
Panicking, I unwedged myself from between the two cars and ran around to the passenger side. Maybe I could climb over the compartment that separated the passenger and driver seats.
I had parked on the very end of a row. There was no space after mine and yet here was a car parked even closer than the other one. Is this the Wild West? Is there anarchy in the student lot? You can’t just create another spot. That’s madness.
I looked at the cars that sandwiched my own and locked me in a prison of perpetual moisture. The car to my right, the one that started it all. In their back window they had placed a “Friendswood Junior High Choir member” sticker. I hoped that their children had vocal nodes and a chronic case of laryngitis. To my left, the car had a stick figure in a wheelchair playing basketball. No, no they’re fine. I’ll just let that slide. Good for them.
But to my right! I hope every note is purely flat. Oh, and definitely that they get the nodes.
I was alone, wet, and cold. Like a lost dog. Any minute now Sarah McLachlan would come save me. The T.V. would show my journey in the rain, perhaps in slow motion, and then suddenly I would be sitting on the floor in front of Sarah McLachlan’s couch and she would be talking about how for just pennies a day they could afford to give me the good kibble. The kind shaped like triangles and squares. Not those shitty circles. Not for me.
But no. I was still there. In the rain, giving up.
And then it hit me. I have a backdoor. The mechanism that makes it stay open is broken but it still opens. I obnoxiously pressed the unlock button and yanked up the door. My eyes had to adjust to not seeing the constant pour of rain. It was like the adjusting the antennae on an old television and the static had suddenly dissipated to form a clear image.
I shrugged off my bag and threw it into the back. Losing the extra weight off my back seemed to give me new energy. I hiked up my skirt and hauled my self in right as the door began coming back down and hit me in the tailbone. Why was it always the tailbone?
Groaning, I pulled my legs in and shut the door. I checked out my surroundings. Why did I have an SUV? There were two more rows till the front seat. I tossed my bag over the seats and climbed through the space between the ceiling and the head rests.
My dress was trapping my knees and my cardigan was turning into ropes that bound my elbows together behind my back. I somersaulted over the edge and then squeezed through to the driver’s seat. I tore off my jacket and belt. I needed more freedom and they were holding me back. I righted myself right-side up, but knees were jammed into my chin until I could unfold them in the cramped space. I finally did it. I was in the seat. I place the key in the ignition and turned.
Oh, God, the warmth.
Oh. Oh yes.