• christaleigh

Parked Cars

Updated: Jun 20, 2019

James and I married in June 1997, and toward the end of September that year, we found out I was pregnant and we moved into our first place- an apartment complex on Juniper Drive. We barely had enough furniture to fill two bedrooms, and the space was the ideal mix of "we're not just kids living together anymore" and "we still hang posters everywhere with thumbtacks because we don't own any real decor".


During the first week of October, I miscarried.


I remember the drive home from the hospital like it was yesterday. The song "All Cried Out" by Allure (originally Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam) came on the radio. It was a Monday, it was raining, and I still remember watching as drops of water pooled together in little groups on the well-Rainx'd windshield of James' 1996 pearly purple Saturn SC2.


Barely 20 years old, I didn't understand and couldn't process the unfairness of a miscarriage. I had friends my age who procreated accidentally and out of wedlock. It seemed intensely unfair of life to take something away from me when I was trying desperately to do everything right.


I took that day off, and it was an emotional one. One day. The next day, back at work, I went about the business of being fine. But I was far from fine.


The part of me that is analytical and practical tried to latch on to the biological knowledge imparted by the doctor who told me there was no heartbeat. This happens, we know it's unfortunate, at least it was early. And then there was the sage advice from well-meaning real adults around us: It just wasn't meant to be. All part of God's Plan. You'll have other babies.


In the days that followed, I don't think James knew what to do with me or my pain. One night, while ugly crying in bed, he said to me: Maybe you weren't even really pregnant. Twenty two years and a lifetime later, I know that he was trying to offer me comfort. I know that I was failing in communicating that I needed help. But at the time, words that made me question my reality and the validity of my mourning cut me to the quick.


I took one day off of work after having a miscarriage. I felt like everyone else got over it in one day, I was supposed to have, too. No one bothered to talk to me about how I felt. I was convinced that I was being over-dramatic, erratic and irrational if I continued to feel loss. I tore the pages out of the journal I bought the day after I found out I was pregnant- words I wrote about my happiness in finding out about a baby that would never be- and according to my husband's reality, maybe a baby that never was.


I kept getting up and going to work.


My mom sent me a plant.


One night we got into a pretty heated argument. Pain and anger were making their way up my spine and out of my mouth. I didn't know what to do, so I went downstairs, got in my car and proceeded to peel out of my parking space in a fit of rage.


Only...


The 1988 Chrysler Lebaron I owned had a front end that I never really judged well, so when the front right bumper of my car made contact with the car next to me, it hadn't been the first time. By then, I was well known for my issues with parked cars.


I hit the pedal so hard in my effort to leave that night that I was already out of the parking spot by the time I realized what had happened. I got out of the car, mortified to find that not only had I wrecked the car of the person who was parked next to me- I had wrecked the still-new prized first real car of my still-new husband. And when I say I did damage, I left a blue streak and an indentation on his front quarter panel, the entire driver side door, and the rear quarter panel.


In the moment that followed, I knew I would make a choice that would define our relationship.


Despite the anger I felt, despite what was happening to me, I ran back upstairs, crying hard. Somehow, we ended up waiting by our cars after calling the police.


Maybe they'd hoped for a more exciting domestic incident, but we calmly informed the officer who showed up that they were both our cars and we thought we had to call the police to report it. He laughed, told us we were on private property so all we were required to do was exchange insurance information, and wished us luck.


That night, James was stunned, but not mad. He didn't make me feel guilty, or stupid, or like I was crazy. This was the first time in our married lives where I would receive grace from him; in a time where no one would have blamed him for reacting in anger, he chose compassion. He chose diffusion.


James and I seemed okay after that; I was relieved that he never really got angry about it. We took the car down to El Paso together and got it fixed. The driver side door was never the same.


And shortly after this incident, James' mother asked me to go for a walk with her. I remember distinctly feeling honored that she'd asked me to do something with her, as she never really seemed to like me much. I thought maybe she would share the kind of comfort I needed from a mother, since my own was so far away.


During the one and only conversation I've ever had about anything substantial with my mother-in-law, she told me that she knew I wrecked James' car on purpose and that no matter how mad I was, it was never okay to destroy property.


So in therapy, more than twenty years later, I admitted to a complete stranger- because that was easier than talking to anyone in my family- that I was still really very angry about the "imaginary" baby I lost and the very real car that I wrecked "on purpose".


What I learned was that I had never been afforded the luxury of closure or the comfort of mourning, and that within the first six months of my marriage I formed a very solid mental barrier between myself and anyone who could be defined as my family, including my husband. And then I worked diligently to never let anyone see me cry; to never let them see me angry; to let them all be who they are at the expense of whomever it was that I was meant to be.


Even now, when we talk about that Saturn... it's this funny story about my truly tragic parking skills and the damage that was done to that car.


Nevermind the damage that was done to me.


We got the car fixed within days; my repairs came nearly twenty years later when finally, James heard the echo of hurt in the words he spoke that negated my reality. He apologized. We mourned together, finally, all of the losses he could never allow himself to see and I could never allow myself to feel.



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