I zoned out on my way home. Even though it was raining heavily, I remained undisturbed. I was used to this.

I was also used to the sudden urgency that reminded me how much water I drank before I left for home. Just part of the experience.

Did it usually feel this urgent, though? How much water did I drink?

My eyes grew wide as I suddenly remembered guzzling down two entire 16 oz bottles of San Pellegrino (my favorite). They grew wider when I remembered I hadn’t used the restroom before I bounced into my car and started the engine. Whatever pain I was in now was going to double in about fifteen minutes, and I still had over an hour left of my commute.

You idiot! What have you done?!

“Ok,” I said to the nonexistent passengers in my car, “this is fine. We’ve done this a thousand times.”

There were no good exits to take to find a restroom, and I usually didn’t consider that an option anyway. It’s better to rush home in pain than to risk adding time to the drive by veering off route and potentially getting lost in some abandoned town.

I have a terrible sense of direction.

So, I persevered.

For another twenty minutes or so.

But then the pain became more urgent.

Allow me to remind you of the fact that I have three children, and if you’re a woman who’s had children, no further explanation is needed.

The rain started coming down harder.

The traffic grew heavier.

Friday traffic.

“Ok, ok, ok. I can do this. I can do this,” I said, once again, to no one. The sweat was starting to rise on my brow, and I tapped the steering wheel vigorously with my left hand.

A sign appeared—Exit 13 had food, gas stations and hotels.

“There we go, Exit 13 it is,” I said, still worrying that I was going to make the situation worse by getting lost, but deciding to chance it.

The rain came down harder.

Was that the exit? No, that was Exit 11. Where was 13?

I began singing a tune to myself to keep the tears from rising.  

“Oh where is exit thirteeeen….because I really really have to go p–”

Ok, there was Exit 15—

“Exit 15? How is that Exit 15?! I was just at Exit 11! Where did Exit 13 go?!”

Suddenly hopeless, the tears began streaming down my cheeks as I realized I was on a stretch of highway that had the narrowest of shoulders, lined by cement wall.

Nowhere to pull over.

I had nothing in my car but an empty Pellegrino bottle, and I’m not even sure why I looked—unless there was a gallon bucket or an adult diaper in the backseat, I was out of luck no matter what.

The cement wall ended, and a line of trees appeared.

I knew I should just pull over, but I hadn’t done something like that since I was 17 years old, having drunk too many beers before leaving the basement concert in Baltimore with my cousins. The memory of everyone in the car laughing as I squatted on the side of the road popped into my mind.

No.

No, no, no. No way. I’ve made it this far, I can make it the rest of the way.

I started to calm down. I told my brain to tell my body to just wait a little longer. I sat up straight in my seat to make more room for my bladder, loosening my seatbelt to remove some of the pressure.

Ok, there it was. The illuminated message board that would tell me I was 22 miles from my destination. Yup, that’s what it says: 22 miles, 72 minutes.

72 minutes???

“Oh noooo!!! Whyyyyy! Why are you doing this to me!! I’m a good person, I did nothing wrong!!!!”

Out of options, desperation took the wheel and I found myself on the shoulder of the road, near a little ditch and some thin pine trees.

All sense of decency abandoned, I jumped out of my car, into the rain, and ran for the trees like something was after me. I didn’t even stop to wonder if there were snakes in the water-filled ditch I had just stumbled through (which proved useful on the way back to my car, as a little…um…foot rinse).

Once I found a place of privacy and relief, I took a moment to reflect on the fascinating way life can remind you that, despite all your sophistication and technology, you’re actually just an animal in denial.

Then I got back in my car and drove home.

(C) 2022 Barbara Gray – no content may be used or reproduced without permission of the author.

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