I wake up on an air mattress in an Austin apartment around 3:30am. (Sounds sketchy, eh?) Never falling back asleep means I’m heading into a day of carshopping on four hours of shuteye; this, along with several other factors, causes me significant anxiety. Sipping on grapefruit juice, I force myself to eat breakfast. If I can work through the early-morning ickiness enough to take in a bit of protein, it often takes the edge off.
At 3pm the previous day, we decided to trek to our state capital to shop for a new vehicle to accommodate our children’s ever-lengthening legs. The 10yo is with his grammy, so we figure we can manage a road trip fairly easily with the 7yo and 3yo. The locale of our rented condo is prime, on a shady block within walking distance of the University of Texas. I wish we had lived here when the hubs was in grad school; I probably would have seen him a lot more. We cruise around campus and I throw “hook ‘em Horns” out the car window the entire time. The 7yo asks me to “stop doing that” and B mumbles, “This is getting weird.” I reply only: “Solidarity.” I want to live in Austin again. I WANT TO LIVE HERE. I daydream about moving back to Austin regularly. We take the girls to the Capitol building and explore the inside of the rotunda. While observing the portrait of Davy Crockett, we explain to the 7yo that he, like her, was a Tennessean who moved to Texas. I text with a friend from Houston who was here just the day before, both of us bummed we missed each other.
We get on with our business at hand and drive to the first dealership on our list. The car salesman – who knew we were coming – makes us wait so long that we finally leave without ever seeing any inventory. I can tell the hubs is already frustrated. I say, “You doin’ ok? You’re seeming stressed.” He replies: “See this huge zit on my face? I’m pretty sure the stress pushed it last night.” I respond, “Dude, only one of us is allowed to be anxious in this partnership…and that’s ME.” Fortunately he laughs. A weathered-looking man who hints of homelessness ambles past our car while we are waiting at a stoplight. Several weeks ago at church, the 3yo put together a bag of snacks and water for someone who might be in need, so we share her offering with him. He takes it and thanks us, and her pleased grin shines like the morning sun.
Upon our arrival at the second dealership, the day has turned blazing hot. I’m hungry. And sleep-deprived. Thus I am irritable (to put it nicely). We test-drive a used Mazda with a sunroof. My five minutes of interstate-driving incites a full-on inward panic. No one in the car can tell but I am freaking…OUT. My head feels weird, my heart races, and I feel afraid of fainting while driving. As I turn back into the dealership, I calm down…but am still shaking and tell Brandon what happened. He says, “You did fine.” I didn’t FEEL fine though. At all.
Lunch at Chipotle. There are no tables available so we stand there waiting for someone to take notice of the family with two young children and one hangry mama. When a table opens up, I notice the teenage girl who leaves it is sporting a buzzcut, carrying a plastic box filled with meds, and has a port in her chest. After we sit down, the hubs notices the massive ulcer on the inside of my bottom lip and expresses frustration (with God, the universe, what-have-you) in regards to my struggles. He says it’s unfair that I have to deal with anxiety, insomnia, cankersores. I shrug my shoulders, then ask if he saw the teenage girl who just left. He ponders her for a moment, then replies: “Talk about unfair.” No kidding.
I mention that even though I often daydream of living in an urban place like Austin, I don’t know if I could take the frantic speed of it all. I feel frantic on the inside so much of the time, thus I need my surroundings to be the opposite. If I felt inwardly at peace more often, maybe I could better handle the whirlwind (traffic, noise, crushes of people, waiting for a table when you’re hangry) that is big-city living. We talk about how we have lots of changes coming in the next few weeks: Brandon’s job, the 10yo entering public school, the 7yo attending a new two-day-a-week school, and I say to B, “I feel the pace quickening…and I’m not ready.”
Two other patrons’ extremities are completely inked in tattoos and I want to study them all. But it’s rude to stare. I am fascinated by the stories people feel so deeply that they have them permanently etched on their bodies. The hubs and I start car-talking. Is it too hard to climb into the back seat? Does the back seat get enough air circulation? We move the convo back to our mini-mini-van parked on a side street and sit in the heat talking to our insurance company about fascinating topics like interest rates and financing. When the 7yo requests a potty, we drive around the corner to Starbucks. I notice more scrubs in the shop and outside a punk-looking girl dressed in black with a green ponytail…using a walker. Putting together all the health-professional-looking adults, a couple of ill teens, and a medivac helicopter flying in over the parking lot, I realize we are in the backyard of Dell Children’s Medical Center and it feels like my heart doubles over. This is one of the conundrums of life that is so hard for me to comprehend…ill and suffering children. As much as I have lingered on this thought in my forty years, I choose to push it away right now.
We decide against visiting the third dealership, and instead to make an offer on the Mazda with the sunroof. The girls and I spend the rest of the afternoon in a sky-blue waiting room while the hubs takes care of all the laborious detail that comes with purchasing a car. This is Brandon’s game and I am fine with that. I do my part by keeping the munchkins out of his hair. The girls do a terrific job waiting and entertaining themselves…and me. A friendly salesman offers for us to change the channel from ESPN to whatever the girls want to watch, so we hit up PBS. As he leaves the room, he whispers, “Football is so boring.” Another employee wanders into the waiting area and buys three snacks in about thirty minutes. On his third go-around, I say, “Maybe you should just go buy some lunch.” He laughs, turns red and says, “This IS my lunch.” He doesn’t come back after that. Did he think I was flirting? I don’t care. I’m forty years old. I’m starting to care less if someone thinks I’m flirting.
The sky turns dark toward the north. Blessed rain is moving into the city and the surrounding hill country. I go out to our hail-dinged car to retrieve our insurance card and sweet mercy! The shade of those thunderheads! As we wait for the dealership to do a last-minute tidy-up, I overhear the financing guy spilling to Brandon about the bad blood between him, his ex-wife and her present husband. It’s a sordid story and we’re only hearing his side of it, but it’s an appreciated reminder that everyone everywhere has stuff they’re dealing with. The 3yo notices my cankersore and says, “Oh, you okay? It hurts me too.” Empathy at three years old. Impressive. She hands me an invisible something and explains, “Crackers…eat them ALL.”
We are finally new(-to-us) car owners. It’s about 5pm and Brandon wants to push for home. Because we now have two cars to steer back, it means I’m driving and I am nervous about navigating through rain, in rush-hour traffic, and on four hours of sleep at dusk. But if we stay in town it means we have to pay for another night of lodging, and what if I don’t sleep well again? Will I be any more rested for a drive home tomorrow? We finally agree to stay put and head back into central Austin. I feel relieved. The apartment we rented the night before is fortunately still available so we pile back in. The weather is overcast, sprinkling and cool enough for us to walk down the street and let the girls have dinner with a mooching pigeon on the Chick-fil-A patio. Then we drive our new wheels to Whole Foods to buy dinner for the grown-ups; on the way, the hubs says ‘someone’s thumpin’ their bass tonight’ and I say ‘I think that’s US’…and it IS. Nicki Minaj and Usher in the middle-aged house, yo. Parking in the underground garage at Whole Foods makes us feel like legitimate city-dwellers. There’s no way we could shop in a place like this regularly (price point!) but it’s fun to do on “vacation”.
Back in the apartment, the girls crash into bed and Brandon fiddles with the phone charger. I dig into my baked potato and open Facebook to the news that Robin Williams has died. His death is sad enough as it is, but then I see something about ‘self-inflicted’ and ‘asphyxia’ and I know he has most likely hung himself. No…NO! Dammit! I think. Maybe I whisper it out loud. I don’t react this way because it’s the famous, funny-man Robin Williams, but because I loathe how depression can play such tricks on your mind. It lies and makes you think the world is better off without you, that your existence is a burden to your beloved ones. After 63 years of nagging at Robin, that insidious voice has convinced him of the lie. It ticks me off that depression – the oppressive spirit that haunts so many – has turned the ear of another child of God. I’ve come close to falling for that lie too, but that’s a not-so-usual story for another day.
I lay down my exhausted self in the city of my daydreams and fall asleep thinking of Robin.