That's good. You don't want you to die, either.\n\nStill breathing?\n\nGood.\n\n[[Keep going.]]
If you stay very still and look down at your chest you can actually see it shuddering under your skin. Your pulse roars through your head, deafening, deafening.\n\n[[<--|heart attack]]
You can do this, you know.\n\n[[Seriously.]]
There was an image of half of a child's lower jaw, a tangle of braces attached to the small teeth, lying on the pavement beside what was once a fender. The gums were still glossy pink.\n\nThe rest of the child was nowhere to be seen, and somebody off-screen was singing "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" between sobs.\n\nGotta love these educational films, huh.\n\n[[<--|issue]]
You always listen to electronica when you drive because it's like the soundtrack of an action series. Action heroes aren't afraid of cars.\n\n(The key to driving successfully is getting into character.)\n\n[[<--|Get in the car.]]
You sometimes joke that if you're willing to drive out to see somebody, it's a sure sign that you love them, because it means you like them more than you dislike panic attacks! \n\nVery funny joke, that.\n\nHeh. [[Heh.]]
Your pulse is slowing a little. Your breath isn't catching quite as much on its way out of your chest. You no longer feel like you are going to puke on everything.\n\nWhich is nice.\n\n[[Yeah.]]
It feels impossible, but try. \n\n[[Just try.]]
You can't make a sound. Probably a good thing. Any noise you managed to emit would be a pitiful whine, like an animal with its legs tangled hopelessly in wire. How embarassing.\n\n[[<--|heart attack]]
It's only after you've replied that you realize you may have made a terrible mistake.\n\nSee, the theater is in a part of town you're not familiar with.\n\nAnd you are going to have to [[drive]] to get there.
You go through this routine every time you get behind the wheel. You plan, panic, talk yourself down, buck up, and eventually get where you need to go. \n\nSure, you've pulled over and cried in a couple of parking lots when you've gotten lost before. Sure, you've cursed the GPS in every language you can summon when it sends you down the wrong street for the third time in an hour. Sure, you have to wipe sweat off your upper lip and fix your hair and laugh a crazy, violent laugh to flush the rest of the stress hormones from your system before you get out of the car whenever you arrive.\n\nBut you've survived so far, in spite of every cell in your body screaming that you were going to your doom.\n\nDunno. Maybe, just maybe, this is getting [[easier]].
You might be having a [[heart attack]], actually. Y'know, nothing out of the ordinary.
You are going to die.\n\nYou are going to get on the road and die.\n\nYou are going to get on the road and miss your turn and you will drive off a cliff or slam into a semi or hit a van full of little kids and you will die, you will die, you will -- \n\n[[STOP.]]
It's not like this is your first time driving somewhere new! And has driving somewhere new proven to be fatal so far?\n\nDidn't think so.\n\nYup.\n\n[[Keep breathing.]]
You're stalling.\n\nIt's 1:00. The show starts at 2:00. \n\nShit.\n\nShit.\n\nOkay.\n\nOkay, you can do this.\n\n[[You think.]]
Behind the Wheel
The sad thing is that there's no reason for you to hate driving as much as you do. You had a decent [[instructor]], you've never been in an [[accident]], and your folks always encouraged you to be [[wise]] when you were in a car.\n\n[[And yet.]]
Maybe someday you'll be able to get on the road without even thinking about it -- drive up and spend the weekend crashed on your friend's futon just because you can, or travel across half the state to see another buddy for her birthday, or take the freeway right across the country on the kind of Big American Road Trip that's the stuff of college legend.\n\nMaybe someday.\n\nFor now, [[getting to the movie theater]] is a good start.
Jesus christ you're gonna throw up oh god you can feel lunch rising in a horrible acid wave come on keep it together come on -- \n\n[[<--|heart attack]]
Your lungs deflate like wet paper bags collapsing on themselves. \n\nThey do not reinflate. \n\nAnd then they finally do, and then they do it faster, faster, and you grip the steering wheel and force yourself to slow down, eyes watering, because your vision's going funny at this rate.\n\n[[<--|heart attack]]
Slow, shuddery breath in.\n\nThen out.\n\nIn again.\n\nHold it for a moment.\n\nThen out.\n\n[[You're shaking.]]
Shh.\n\nShh.\n\nTake a second to think about where you are.\n\nKeep breathing as you do it, okay?\n\n[[Okay?]]
Okay, take a sec to get comfortable. The theater's only 20 minutes away, you've got twice as much time as you need. You can take it slow, no worries.\n\nAdjust your seat. Adjust your mirrors. Put on some [[cool music.]]\n\nYou're doing fine. Heartrate's still normal. Maybe you can do this, huh?\n\n[[Put the address into the GPS.]]
You think that maybe, just maybe, [[you might be able to do this.]]
Deep breath. Check your seat and mirrors again. \n\nThe GPS says it's a fairly straight shot across town, and there shouldn't be much in the way of traffic at all.\n\nMake sure the music is set to something badass. \n\nPut the key in the ignition and turn the car on.\n\nYou can do this.\n\n[[Drive.]]
Your breathing is even now. Your heart is still a little fast, but the mad, blinding chemical alarm signals have mostly faded in your brain.\n\nThis is good. This is progress.\n\n[[It only took you six minutes to pull yourself together this time.]]
You are safe.\n\nYes, you are. There is nothing inside or immediately outside of this car that can hurt you.\n\nThe car is not your enemy.\n\nThe car [[does not want you to die]].
Well, at least the guy who did the behind-the-wheel stuff back in high school was nice. Very chill, liked to listen to NPR.\n \nThe woman who taught the course itself yelled constantly, told stories about how she once ran over her neighbors' German Shepherds out of spite, and showed this movie called [[Red Asphalt]] that you'd really prefer to forget.\n\n[[<--|issue]]
...\n\n\n\n\n\n...\n\n\n\n\n\n\n...\n\n\n\n\nThe answer is [[no]].\n\n
You've been very lucky so far. Not all of your friends have. Some of them have metal pins that hold their bones together now to prove it. \n\n[[<--|issue]]
"Remember," said your dad, "you are essentially driving a two-ton bullet. A car can kill a person as easily as a gun."\n\nHe paused.\n\n"It's not your driving abilities I'm worried about," he said in a reassuring tone. "It's all the other idiots out there on the road."\n\n[[<--|issue]]
\nA friend of yours invited you out to see a movie today. This cool old theater across town is showing that action flick with the robots, and you know what? It sounds like a pretty great way to spend the afternoon.\n\nSo you say [[yes]], of course.\n\n
...\n\n\n\n\n\n\n...\n\n\n\n\n\n\n[[You okay there?]]\n
This is a bit of an [[issue]] for you.
BEHIND THE WHEEL\n\na story by el
Okay.\n\nGo get the keys.\n\nNo, don't overthink anything yet, just go get the keys.\n\nGot 'em?\n\nOkay.\n\n[[Get in the car.]]
It happens like this every time. You get in the car, adjust everything to your liking, and just as you type in your destination and get ready to take the old Volkswagen out of park -- \n\nyour [[heart]] rate triples\n\nyour [[throat]] closes up\n\nyour [[lungs]] stop working\n\nyour [[stomach]] rebels\n\n[[and your brain goes careening somewhere terrible.]]