Last night I drove again for the first time in over six years. Real driving. Not just around the corner or home to the store, but sixty miles an hour on a dark, winding road in the middle of the night.
Nikola was exhausted, from the constant three hour drives too and from Varna as well as from a weekend of helping out at a cycling race, so I stepped up to the plate and offered to do part of the drive while he slept.
He slept beside me and Peatuk slept behind him and I had the car to myself for one hour of forbidden driving. It made me nervous. I couldn’t see the twists in the road and I am not used to driving where lines come and go and the blacktop often fades into the forest. It was nothing like the desert roads I am used to- open for miles in every direction and shimmering in the moonlight. It felt confining and, at times, suffocated.
But at other times, it felt completely liberating. There I was, in charge of a vehicle similar in size to my first station wagon. Over the years I have felt myself on a constant mission to downgrade the size and speed of my vehicle. I went from Paddy- the party wagon that I lucked into for my sixteenth birthday simply as a matter of convenience, to Becky- the little Datsun that set me on the open road for the first time, to Destiny- the Honda Shadow that took me into the desert. Then, finally, I was free of cars. Public transportation, bicycles, and my own two feet somehow made me feel safe and secure. They were my pace.
Hell, if I am honest I will say that I have never made it down a hill on my bike without braking. Excessively. I am not much of one for motion.
But last night reminded me of long drives in the middle of the night when I was still a teen. When I didn’t know enough to be afraid of motion. In the decade and some since then, I haven’t forgotten how to drive. The physical knowledge is still there, allowing me to simply feel the car along the road. And yet, it took so much more concentration than I remembered. No wonder I felt the need to escape driving. It is stressful. There were times when my heart was racing, when I felt irritability creeping in.
And yet. And yet. And yet.
It was the first time in over a week that I was able to set aside this constant pounding of anxiety in my stomach. The experience was so immersive and just demanding enough that I was able to get out of my head and just be for a little while. It was incredibly relaxing in that way.
Still, an hour later I gave up the wheel and took my more comfortable seat as a passenger. But for once, it felt amazing to be a driver again.