I remember the good ol’ convivial days of PMS fondly now that I’m in menopause and on the maximum dosage of estradiol. My mind and body are on a perpetual carnival ride of emotions and I simply show up as a spectator, anxiously praying the circus won’t be too much of a freakshow.
This weekend I was giving Mark crap about his driving. Mark is the most easy-going, passive person I know and only three things really frost him- his ex-wife, traffic and the way I somehow manage to trap huge amounts of air into Ziploc bags containing food. So he was tailgating some dude in front of us on a freeway ramp Saturday and it was wigging me out. A menopausal rainbow of shimmering moods blurred my vision and I shrieked, “Why are you driving so bad?! You’re going to smash into this guy and we’ll nosedive right off this overpass, the car will explode and we’ll crisp up like bacon while we burn to death in the flames!”
Mark eased off the gas and apologized and then I felt bad. He’s such a good guy. And I’m not exactly a great driver myself.
That evening we went to WalMart to grocery shop (and, ok, I was wearing pajama pants and a ripped shirt so where else is that acceptable?). As we were leaving, I saw a man-boy (he was maybe 20 years old?) running full speed after a car in the empty part of the parking lot. He was yelling something I couldn’t hear. The car he was chasing slowed a bit and the driver rolled the window down. A young woman stuck her head out and started screaming back at him.
I punched Mark in the arm. “Pull over! PULL OVER!!! Something is about to go DOWN!” Eagerly, I leaned forward, trying to hear what the couple were arguing about. The woman was still driving slowly, her head angrily thrust through the open window.
Mark reluctantly parked and sighed. He started to say something and I shooshed him impatiently. The woman was speeding up, making the guy run after her even faster. They were both still yelling.
I was jumping up and down in my seat. “I can’t hear! What are they saying?!”
The woman suddenly braked hard. The man almost caught up to her and as soon as he did, she peeled out and drove off. Forlornly, the man-boy stared after the disappearing taillights. He sat down on a curb by the shopping carts and pulled his cell phone out.
“Who is he calling!?” I demanded of Mark. “Is he calling HER?”
A few seconds passed and then the car appeared again from the west end of the parking lot. It was barreling full speed toward the man-boy. He leapt to his feet.
“SHE’S BACK!!!” I screeched excitedly.
The man-boy started running toward the oncoming car and the woman stuck her head out of the window. She looked mad and she was yelling at the man-boy again.
“Don’t do this, Erica!” he shrieked in a pleading voice. “ERICAAAAAAAAA!!!!” He sounded like a wounded animal calling for its mate.
“OMG!” I said to Mark, “Is Erica going to run him over?!”
“We should leave now,” Mark said. “This could turn into a dangerous situation.”
“Nooooooooo!” I howled. “I’m involved now! I have to know what happens! Like is this just a silly young-love fight? They aren’t really going to break up, are they?”
“Honey, we don’t know these people, I really don’t think…”
Erica’s tires screeched and she drove off again. She stopped at the far end of the lot.
I was gripping the dashboard, my fingers strained and tense. Erica got out of her car. The man-boy was running at her, giving it all he had, his legs pumping like Rocky when he was racing Apollo on the beach. Erica bent down and picked something up off the asphalt and got back in her car. The man-boy was almost to her, his chest heaving with each panting breath.
She drove off again.
“What did she pick up?” I asked wildly, my curiosity at full-tilt. “WHAT DID YOU PICK UP, ERICA!?”
Erica came back and began slowly circling around the man-boy in her car, like a predator teasing its prey. And that’s when Mark put our car in gear and drove away.
“WHERE ARE YOU GOING!?” I wailed. “I have to know what happens!”
Mark pulled onto Elliot and calmly said, “Monica could have picked up a gun and we don’t need to be there for that.”
“Her name is ERICA,” I stressed and then said excitedly, “Did she really pick up a gun?”
“I don’t know what it was. I’m just saying that we don’t need to be in the middle of a possibly violent kafuffle.”
I slumped in my seat. “I’ll never know now…”
“If Erica ever let him in the car. If they’re going to make up? Live happily ever after? Have cute babies and a nice dog?”
The next day we were picking my sweet Aunt Verline up from her retirement village to take her out for dinner. Before we left the house I grabbed the car keys away from Mark and said, “I’LL drive!”
“Because you thought I was being a bad driver on the ramp yesterday or because I drove away during the WalMart drama?”
“Both,” I said tartly.
Twenty minutes later, right before we got to the village, I was stuck behind an extremely slow moving blue car. It looked like it was changing lanes, but was doing so at a snail’s pace and my ragey hormones kicked into gear. “Get out of the way!” I huffed, bearing down on their bumper.
Mark blanched. “You’re awfully close to their…”
“GAH!” I exploded. “MERGE if you’re gonna MERGE!!!”
“Honey, you…” Mark’s frightened voice trailed off as I stomped on the gas, bringing us to within inches of the blue car’s bumper. At the last moment, I jerked the steering wheel, slowed slightly and made a pass like I was going to side swipe them.
Mark let out a terrified squeak.
Raising my fist, I yelled an incoherent angry word that sounded something like, “HAHHHHHRRRRRR!!!!” and then I sped past the blue car, cutting them off. Glancing in the rearview mirror I triumphantly yelled, “Learn to drive!”
Mark cut his eyes to me pointedly.
We had to stop at a red light and the blue car eventually pulled up behind us. I took a quick glance to see what the driver looked like. Who was responsible for my ire? Were they young or old? Clean cut or grungy?
When I saw who it was all the breath went out of my lungs and I sunk low into my seat, completely mortified. “Ahhhhhhh…” I sounded like an injured bagpipe. “Ahhhhhhhhhh…”
“What’s wrong?” Mark was looking at me funny.
“The blue car I was just really mean to… it’s Walter.”
“Walter? Who’s Walter?”
“Aunt Verline’s friend! The one we sometimes have dinner with at the village. The super sweet one.” I covered my face with my hands, wishing I could disappear, rewind time, off myself in a tragically remorseful way.
“Ah. Walter.” Mark shook his head and I could almost hear his brain going, “Tsk, tsk, tsk, wife.”
The light turned green and I took off at a healthy clip, humiliated. Walter turned right and I breathed a sigh of relief. He had gone down a side street.
Mark said, “You know, our windows are really tinted- he probably didn’t even know it was us.”
I felt a bit better. And Walter didn’t know what car we drove so there was that. But still…
I pulled into the village via the back entrance where Aunt Verline would be waiting for us under the drive-through portico. As I drove (slowly now) I saw a blue car coming from the east end of the parking lot. IT WAS WALTER!!! OMG!!!
I stomped on the gas and flew through the portico, my breath coming in fast and heavy, my face red with shame.
“What are you DOING?” Mark asked as I gunned the engine and parked in a far off parking spot. We could see the portico a ways away through the other parked cars. Aunt Verline wandered out through the sliding doors looking about like, “Where did they go?”
I pointed toward the blue car which was now parking. “It’s Walter!” I hissed at Mark.
“So if he sees us pick up Aunt Verline then he’s DEFINITELY going to know it was me who almost side swiped him!”
Mark shook his head exasperated. “Well, we can’t just leave Aunt Verline standing there.”
“But if Walter goes in first…”
Mark turned around and craned his neck to watch the blue car. “He’s taking forever- we can probably round up Aunt Verline and leave before Walter even gets close to the portico.”
“Really?” I asked hopefully.
“GO BACK AND GET HER!” Mark commanded and I whined, “BUT WHAT IF WALTER SEES ME?!?!”
So we’re sitting there arguing and it’s like déjà vu because weren’t we just embroiled in drama the day before in a parking lot?
“We’ll make it fast,” Mark promised.
So I pull under the portico, leap from the car and engulf Aunt Verline in a bear hug. “CAN ANYONE SEE US???” I say into her ear in a spastic undertone, looking around furtively over her shoulder for Walter.
“Who? Who is seeing us?” Aunt Verline asks as Mark helps her into the car.
I hunker down super low in the driver’s seat and once Aunt Verline’s safety belt is on I speed off and tell her what happened with Walter. “And next weekend is your birthday party,” I moaned. “Is Walter going to be there?”
“Of course,” said Aunt Verline.
“I am going to die!” I said histrionically. “DIE!!! I’m so embarrassed!”
Then Mark’s voice wafted up from the backseat. “Now who’s the bad driver?” he said smugly.
All I could do was nod and when he took the car keys away from me after we left the restaurant. I didn’t even argue.
As I’m sure you guessed- dinner for me had been a ginormous helping of… crow.