I left work today. Loaded the kids into the van, turned on the radio and pulled out of my parking space. As I pulled out, Penny, the SSO flagged me down. Before I could even pull out of the parking lot (thankfully)
“You’ve got a flat!” she says.
I put the van in park and get out. I walk around to the passenger side and sure enough, the rim is on the ground.
Fuck. I say silently to myself. But I keep myself composed and get back into the van. I pull it into the handicapped parking space and shut off the engine. I don’t have a spare. I turn the wheel in and then out. Looking for a nail or a screw or the leak. Maybe it’s something I can plug. Penny says she has a pump….but I look at the tire, flat against the pavement and I know there is no hope. I watch as the tire slides off the rim and stare and nod my head.
Ok. I’m not going to panic. I can handle this.
Because that is what I do. I handle it. I put on my strong face and I get it done.
Single mom style.
I text MB. “You have AAA by any chance?”
I call him.
By this time a crowd is gathering around. The Maintance crew is out there, a few teachers, a parent or two….no one who actually knows how to change a tire. Not that it would do any good since I don’t have a spare.
“Do you need help?” They ask.
No, I’m thinking. I can change my own tire, I just NEED A FUCKING TIRE!
I call MB again, and he answers, he must have seen my text. “What’s going on?”
“Do you have triple A? I have a flat. Like, the tire is off the rim. I’m going to need a tow.”
“Yes. Do you want me to call them? What do you want me to do?”
“Idk. Idk what to do. I have a flat. I can’t drive the van, I have a gaggle of children…”
“I’ll be right there.”
And he was. By that time I had called tire kingdom and decided I could just pull the wheel myself and get it over there instead of waiting for the tow truck.
But they don’t make vehicles like they used to. Remember when there used to be a spot on the frame where you would put the jack. You know what I’m talking about…well that isn’t there any more. So you have to actually crawl under the vehicle now to find a place to put it. And not only do they not give you a spare tire, but they give you a shitty jack. So the damn jack bent and the fucking van fell after I got the tire off.
That was awesome.
Pretty sure me and Penny were the only people on that property who knew how to change a tire. Once the van fell all sorts of chaos ensued. I just jacked the bitch back up and put a cinder block under it.
MB took the kids back to his house to hang with his mom. Then he came back and he and I and the tire took a drive over to Tire kingdom.
When I bought the van I also bought the tire warranty. What a fucking nightmare that turned into. MB was so good. He spent almost an hour on the phone trying to get the warranty figured out. The guy at tire kingdom was a complete douchbag. He didn’t want to deal with any of it. Long story short I ended up just paying out of pocket.
Which just pissed me off more.
But I smiled and paid the fucking bill and had MB drive me back to the school with my new tire.
He dropped me off and I ran in and asked the assistant principal if I could borrow his jack. We have the same vehicle, and I felt better having the second shitty jack so the van wouldn’t fall again and kill me.
MB went back to go pick up my kids and bring them back to me.
As I was jacking up the van, the AP graciously helped by jacking up the second jack, even though I could tell he’d never used a car jack in his life. I got the tire on and MB texted me to say his mom was giving the kids dinner and to just come back to his place.
So i did.
But it was weird.
He wasn’t weird.
But I got a weird vibe from his mom and his son. Idk. Something wasn’t right.
So loaded my kids up and drove home. My back was killing me. I was hungry and annoyed and frustrated. And as I drove the day collapsed in on me.
By the time I got home I just wanted to pour myself a drink and take a long hot bath so that is what I did.
I helped for a little while.
But MB was texting and I asked him if all was well. I told him I’d gotten a weird vibe at his house…he said he had felt the same way. We assured each other that all was well…but then he went silent.
I got the kids to bed. And decided to turn on Hulu. Catch up on ‘This is Us’.
Oiy. Maybe it was the day, maybe it’s the show, maybe it’s my period, maybe it’s just depression…
Crying. And crying.
MB finally texted me an hour later…he’d fallen asleep and was going to go to bed…
Ok….I love you…
Maybe it was the show. I really do love that show. It’s raw. And honest and relateable and tragic…and it just makes me cry…
and I was a drink or two in…
And I was hungry…and I looked in my fridge and I wasn’t interested and I looked in the freezer and I wasn’t interested and I looked in the snack cabinet….
And then I poured another drink and sat back down with my show…and I cried. And I cried some more. And I went back into the kitchen and and thought about my mother.
My dead mother. Who raised my brother an i alone. And I looked around my house. That I worked so hard for. That I know I can’t afford. And I imagined her looking around our house when I was young, thinking the same thing.
Crying because she knew that $100 tire was a 100 that wouldn’t pay the power bill. Wouldn’t pay the water. Or the mortgage. And I know I bitch about her failings but the truth is she did the best she could. And I was too young back then to tell her that or to save her from her fate.
And it’s a damn tragedy that she went out like that. And I can imagine myself a similar fate. One where my kids hate me because I drink too much to dull the pain of feeling like a failure.
So I emailed Lenny. Because I didn’t know what else to do. And I thanked him for teaching me to change a tire.
And then I found a can of spaghettios and I put it in a pot on the stove and as it warmed if sank to the floor on my kitchen, gasping for air. Crying. Feeling so alone. Feeling so empty. And so alone. And hopeless.
Wanting to call MB. To cry to him. To plead with him to come to me. To hold me and make it ok. But knowing how unfair that is. His son needs him. It’s late. I can’t be selfish. I know my place. I have no right to ask that of him, and i know I would only be disappointed anyway.
And I looked around my house again. The house I bought. The house I worked hard for. The house I know I will loose…because that is my fate….and I buried my face in my arms and my knees and cried some more.
And when I looked up I caught my reflection in the stove.
There I was, on the floor, alone.
No one else. Just me.
And took a deep breath. That cleansing, strengthening breath, because I know alone is all I’m ever really going to be.
Here I am, 36 years old, 3 kids, a house, a career. Crying on my floor, about to eat spaghettios for dinner to wash down my vodka.
Because I had a flat tire.
I am a strong independent woman.
About this time Lenny emailed me back. Which was odd because I actually hadn’t heard from him in awhile. This brought on another bought of tears. I thanked him for teaching me to change a tire and everything he’d done for me. He was gracious as always and assured me that it would be ok. He brought up some old funny memories to try and cheer me up. Through my tears I did manage a smile and half a laugh.
But between emails I was reminded that I was alone. With nothing more than my tears to keep me company.
But then I heard my youngest daughter crying in her room. I quickly dried my face and slowed my breath….
She’d gotten sick in her bed. I assured her it was ok and sent her into the bathroom to clean up while I changed her sheets. I brought her some stomach medicine and as she took it I caught a glimps of my reflection. Swollen eyes and a gentle smile.
Doesn’t that just sum it all up.
I hope some day my kids know I tried.
That I did the best I could.
With what I had.
But I hope they never have to feel what i feel in order to realize it.