When You Walk Through My Door, You’ll Be Home

When I moved into this apartment, I planned on being here for quite a while. I spent a lot of time applying for over 300 jobs outside of the Midwest and finally accepted the fact that I just wasn’t going anywhere at the moment. Hence, starting Far From Everything Films, LLC with Jennifer, and basing it out of Nebraska.

When I had spent two and half years being single, I planned on being that way for quite a while. I mean, I didn’t have a job-job, I don’t like bar-hopping, I’m anti-social; where the hell was I going to meet somebody? Hence, downloading Tinder.

When I started talking to Andrew, I really just knew that was it.

When he told me he may be transferred to Minnesota, I knew I wanted to go with him.

When he officially got the job and asked me if I wanted to move when my lease was up, I said, ‘yes.’

Today, we officially signed the lease. So, by the end of May, I will have become a Minnesota resident. 🙂

Enough Doors: A Short Story by Nina Friis

Graham knew when he found the house. He knew. He just knew.

Actually, he’d found some sort of house. Some sort of dwelling.

It was a tiny, brick building built into the hillside. He’d practically run into it after struggling out of the ravine.

It was empty. Of inhabitants, anyway. There was a table and stool, some ratty shirts hanging in the open closet, odds and ends and cobwebs everywhere else. He couldn’t see much through the rain-stained, dusty window.

He tried the door. It wasn’t much of a door. It was thick plywood with a lock. No lintel. And no budging it.

There was a garage door. Strange, he thought. That wouldn’t budge either.

He could break it down; he could break it all down. It was a pile of rubbish.

He looked through the window again. This time, he saw one of the shirts rustling in the closet. There must be a breeze coming through the other side.

Graham squinted as he remembered there was no other side. He worried his bottom lip and pushed back from the window. Narrowly missing the railroad tie behind him, he walked up the grass by the side of the house.

He couldn’t quite tell, but nestled among the trees, there appeared to be a large, dark metal shed.

Another locked door and another locked garage door. No windows to peer through this time.

Beside the shed was a gravel road lined with trees. Perhaps he’d found the driveway.

The gravel road led directly to another shed. White. Wooden. The door wedged closed with a log.

The log was easy enough to twist and roll off of the door. It slipped against the worn timber and clunked to the ground.

Graham instinctually looked around, but knew he wouldn’t have roused anyone in the vicinity. There was no one in the vicinity.

He fed his fingers through the opening of the door and pulled it open. After only a few inches, it got caught up on some rocks, the rocks acting like a foyer runner, hindering the door’s ability.

Kicking the rocks away, he was able to incrementally shove the door further and further open.

He coughed on the God-knows-how-many-year’s-worth-of dust and waved his hand in front of his face.

Until now, he’d made his way by what little sight he had and by feel. Now, inside this shed, he fished his mobile out of his pocket.

Graham flicked on the phone’s flashlight with his thumb. He swept the light back and forth slowly, waiting for a reflection of something, anything.

He raised the phone over his head to see into the rafters. Only planks of wood. A few belts, maybe for an old tractor.

He heard the door scrape across the rocks behind him. Fight or flight kicked in immediately, but as soon as he made to face either certain death or certain arrest, the door had stopped moving and remained propped mostly open.

With his heart rate sped up, he decided the shed wasn’t haunted, nor was it worth a heart attack. He gingerly pressed his fingertips to the door, expecting some sort of resistance. It required little at all, in fact, as he exited the old shed.

He looked down at the rocks and noticed that they seemed less rucked up like a rug and more smoothed away. Well, he did that, right? When he had to get the door open in the first place. Yeah. That’s right.

Graham took a deep breath and looked up at the giant Christmas trees that met him. His mobile flashlight was still in use, so he shined it at the tall pines.

It looked like a balcony had been built out of the top of one of them. Clearly not right.

That’s when there was a glint off of some glass.

Lots of glass.

Holy shit, there’s an actual house on this property.

He walked around to the wooden deck behind the trees. It was attached to a two-story house.

He couldn’t see a door, so he walked to his right, following the edge of the concrete foundation.

In the darkness, he could make out the length of an exterior wall that met another wall perpendicularly.

A few steps further revealed another jut of a wing and another deck. The house seemed to wrap around him as he got closer.

Graham turned off his flashlight and followed the line of the house, nearly running straight into an air conditioning unit and then even more nearly off of a retaining wall.

Below the retaining wall was a landing and a door. It was a double-wide door with no window.

This couldn’t be a house. Maybe a business. But the sheds… no, this had to be a house.

Past the door, he came up against the other wing of the house and felt his way along until he reached a corner.

He was under the other deck now, and on yet another landing, there was yet another door. This door was mostly glass, but had the blinds drawn tight.

He dumbly tried the handle. Locked, of course.

To his right, he followed the concrete landing with his eyes and made out the ridge of a step. He peered around the corner to find a winding trail of concrete stairs and an overgrown sidewalk.

He got out his flashlight again and trained it on his path.

It was a low-grade staircase, but fighting the long-dead hostas was treacherous, even with light.

About halfway up, the concrete disappeared altogether. It was completely littered with fallen branches and twigs.

Graham crouched to hold his phone closer to the ground. He walked with flat feet over the limbs, correcting here and there to maintain balance.

Finally out of the thicket, he began to straighten back up. He stretched his back and rolled his shoulders. How long had he been hunched over?

He twisted round and shone the flashlight down the path, seeing only a few steps and then the corner of the house.

It couldn’t be. It looked only about ten meters away.

“Bullshit,” he said aloud to no one, and looked down at the ground in preparation to head back. He had to check again, this time without being so careful.

He was about to take his first step toward verification when he felt a whoosh in front of his face.

He jumped back just as the branch hit the ground loudly.

He looked up, like there was someone up there to yell at about it.

Not wanting to test his luck, he turned around and continued up the path.

Rounding the corner, he ducked beneath the low branches of rotten fruit tree.

River rocks skittered across the sidewalk as he stepped free. He moved his phone to light his surroundings. He seemed to be standing in a yard now. A front yard. Yes, there was an actual driveway past a tree.

This was definitely a house.

Graham followed the rest of the sidewalk that ran in front of it.

It passed a bank of two windows jutting from the siding. Must be a windowseat.

The sidewalk curved around some overgrown landscaping and ended with two names written by finger in the wet cement, long-since dried.

Just past the names was a step to a porch.

Shining his light up at the front door, he noticed an official-looking piece of paper affixed behind the glass.

He stepped up onto the porch and reached for the door handle. Locked, naturally.

He held the light up above the paper and read: VACANT. PRIVATE PROPERTY. NO TRESPASSING. LAST INSPECTION: 05/2012.

There was a list of previous inspection dates, like the ones you find in restaurant bathrooms.

It either hadn’t been inspected in over two years, or the inspectors have neglected to mark the sheet.

He expected the former.

Graham looked behind him at the driveway. It was a long driveway. Leading up to a bend in the road: a road that looked as abandoned as the house.

He walked the length of the porch and came to another bank of windows. Another windowseat.

He cupped his hands around his eyes and leant up to the glass.

There was hardly any visibility, of course. And nothing to see, anyway. Some bits of packing materials strewn about on the dark carpet, light tile in the entryway, French doors leading to another room.

He straightened up. There was a step down to the garage door.

He saw a keypad on the door frame. He punched a few buttons and hit the pound key. It beeped at him, but nothing else happened. He knew nothing would.

He turned around and looked at the flat expanse of the driveway before him. An almost-burnt-out streetlight hummed near the end. A lot of help that was providing.

He looked to his left and saw what looked like yet another sidewalk leading around the house.

Graham kept his flashlight in front of him as he went around the corner. He swept the light around and found, “Jesus Christ,” another shed.

He kept walking, ignoring the millionth shed, until he had to round another corner to, “fucking hell,” another deck.

Shaking his head, he took the first step up. The unused wood groaned under his foot.

He paused, one foot on the step and the other just with the toe of his shoe grazing the ground. Slowly, he straightened his leg and brought his other foot to the next step.

Testing it with two heavy presses, he determined that it was sound and hopped quickly up the next two to the top.

He let out a sigh of relief and found a sliding glass door ahead of him. He checked it.

Locked.

He tried to get a good look through it, but there were thick blinds blocking his view.

He stepped back and walked to the end of the deck. There was a built-in bench that went all the way around. He knelt on it and looked out into the darkness.

He could see the large, metal shed he passed earlier. He thought about it; it seemed like ages ago.

He stood up and sighed. Maybe there’s something interesting in the new shed.

As he turned around, he moved his light to relocate the stairs. As the light passed the glass door, he spotted movement: the blinds were swaying gently.

Graham stared at the blinds moving on their own. Or what must be on their own, because, well, the house is vacant. Or should be.

He stayed frozen there on the deck, light fixed on the blinds, wondering again if he was facing certain death or certain arrest. Or certain insanity.

Finally, he decided that he should probably run. Just in case.

He kept his eyes on the blinds until he shifted the flashlight back toward the stairs for a quick getaway.

This is when he found yet. another. door.

He gaped at it. Just how many goddamn doors and decks and sheds does this property have.

He told himself that everything is locked. It doesn’t matter. He just needs to go. He’s been lucky so far and his luck won’t last forever. He should go.

After he tries this last door.

Graham decided not to take a last glance over at the blinds and just head straight for the door.

Which opened for him.

He stumbled into a pressing darkness. He saw the tiniest sliver of light ahead of him. He was in the garage.

He searched with his phone and found nothing but empty shelves.

And, expectedly, another door.

This one had to be open. Suddenly, his faith was in success and not failure.

He reached out and grasped the handle. He shone his light at the door and a compact, white box caught his eye.

It was a burglar alarm.

Shit.

There was a little, green light that said, READY.

He lit the box directly and saw that there was a light over the word ARMED that was not glowing.

He worried his top lip, for variety’s sake. If the alarm is hooked up, he can just run right back out the door and back into the woods.

If it’s not, well.

Graham took a deep breath and twisted the doorknob.

It went willingly with his hand.

He hesitated before pushing it open.

Moment of truth.

He let out the held breath and took in another.

He gathered potential energy in his arm and mentally counted to three.

On three, he shoved the door open and jumped back off the step.

There was a momentary panic as he heard a loud, rapid beep-beep-beep-beep-beep.

And then it was silent.

Five beeps. That couldn’t have been the alarm.

He waited a full minute, straining his ears to hear God-knows-what.

And heard nothing.

He realized he’d been breathing incredibly shallowly and took a few relieving gulps of air.

He rolled his eyes at himself and stepped back to the door to the house.

He crossed the threshold and then froze.

It was pitch black.

Stress is like Punching Someone through Molasses

Last night, I dreamt that it was the day of my best friend’s wedding and my other best friend, a fellow bridesmaid, reminded me that we’d not yet bought our dresses. For the wedding. That day. She goes, “Let’s just run to Target really quick.”

On our way through the parking garage (wherever we were), I stopped at my car to get something, and these five or six young guys started toward me. I thought about trying to hide behind the car, but figured they’d find me anyway, so I just sort of faced them. Two of them had ballpoint pens aimed at me like weapons and the others were unarmed, but still circling around me and being threatening.

I decided I needed to come out swinging, literally, and brought my arm back to land a punch on one of the punks.

As per usual, as per every single dream where I’ve tried to fight someone, my fist took about thirty seconds to reach the kid’s face. I don’t know what that is in miles-per-hour or force or whatever, but it’s pretty goddamn slow and pretty goddamn weak. Ineffective, to say the least.

It didn’t matter whether I threw a punch with my left or right, neither of them would do any good. Or any harm, I should say.

Kicks were the same way.

I even got the pens away from the losers at one point and were attempting to stab them. Nothing. Probably didn’t even leave an ink mark on their shirts.

Not only is this frightening, but it’s stressful. And it arouses many questions. Why can’t I defend myself? If I don’t defend myself, I’m going to get hurt. I don’t want to get hurt. Why am I so weak?

Every. single. dream. involving a fight.

And usually, I have these dreams when I’m anxious about something. So the fact that I can’t defend myself or I’m too weak to inflict any harm on someone who is trying to harm me doesn’t really help with my anxiety or stress.

I’m sure I could make some claim about how I’m feeling helpless IRL so it’s translating into the dream. It’s just cyclical. Like, it’s bothered me all goddamn day.

I’m feeling anxious and stressed out and helpless and fearful because of the drunk’s upcoming hearing on Thursday. I won’t even be doing anything; I don’t even have to go, technically. I just want to go so that I can hear him plead and hear his fate. I don’t even think he’ll receive sentencing; who knows. I just can’t not go. I can’t sit at home and wait to hear what’s next. That’s all I’ve fucking been able to do since this accident. Sit at home, receive bills, send emails, see doctors, make phone calls to hospitals/insurance/bill collectors. It’s been truly maddening.

I just want it all to be over. I want my medical bills paid, I want to be healed and healthy again, I want to wake up and not wonder who or what related to the case I’ll have to deal with that day.

I know complaining makes little-to-no sense. If I had chosen this, I wouldn’t be able to complain; this is just something that happened, so I shouldn’t complain. The thing is, though, that it’s something that shouldn’t have happened. Something that didn’t need to happen.

This has been the longest slow-motion punch and I desperately need it to make contact and inflict damage. For once.

Heartache, Hope, and Headache

Lord have mercy.

When life changes, it certainly changes. Back in early November, I matched with someone on Tinder. I know. Tinder. Gag. I’d matched with a few people before, met with one, nothing worked out. I decided to delete the app and start over with it. I wasn’t sure what that was going to accomplish, but I digress.

I swiped right on a few guys and then came across this guy named Andrew. His instagram was in his bio, so I creeped. I really appreciated being able to do that because I got a sense of his personality and humor. He seemed sarcastic and into puns, quite like myself. Then I accidentally double-tapped one of his photos. Fuck.

Now, I could have unliked it, deleted tinder, and crawled under a rock, but that would have been a ridiculous overreaction. I went back into the tinder app and swiped right.

Shortly thereafter, he swiped right for me, creating a match. Ta-da.

I decided to be brave and send the first message. His bio said something about dad jokes, of which I am a master, so I messaged him some dumb comment about the aforementioned. It took a day or so (cue me biting my nails) and then he responded.

Within a very short time, he’d impressed the pants off of me. Well, okay, conversationally, anyway. We had several things in common, he seemed very gentlemanly and genuine – even over a tinder chat. He ended up asking for my number.

We texted a bit every day – good conversation, no small talk. Then a couple days later, I got a not-so-great message.

My mom called me and said that my Nana had taken a turn for the worse and likely had about two-to-three weeks left. She’d just been given her Last Rites since it’s getting to be about that time. I’d wavered on whether or not I wanted to go see her one last time. She’d had Alzheimer’s for years now and looked right through me when I saw her last Christmas. Selfishly, it wasn’t something I wanted to go through again.

Then Friday, 14th of November, mom called in the afternoon to say that Nana’s prognosis had moved from two-to-three weeks to two-to-three days. I wavered again about whether to run down to the home and see her, but the thought seeing her in her current state just about paralyzed me. She wouldn’t recognize me, she’s probably in pain, she’s sleeping anyway, etc. I decided to stay home, but I would talk to my brother about potentially going to see her the next day.

That visit never came, because around 11pm that night, mom’s name showed up on my phone. I knew right away what had happened, and my instincts were confirmed when she said, “this is the call.”

My beloved Nana had died. Those words are bitter in my mouth.

Sweet Nana is finally in Heaven and out of pain.

I needed to go for a drive.

I drove to Nana’s old house. There are new owners now and they were home, looking out the window for whatever reason, so I couldn’t stay. I wanted to sit in the driveway and look at it. I wanted to sit and imagine all the million times we walked or biked down the road to her house for frosted ginger cookies and milk. All the Halloweens we’d trick-or-treated and gotten loads of candy from her at the front door. All the Christmases we’d helped trim her tree with ancient ornaments and strands of tinsel that we got all over the floor. I wanted to imagine sitting on her dusty rose-colored couch and glanced over to her in her rocking chair – seeing her knitting a new scarf or blanket.

I wanted to get out of the car and walk around back to the garden. I wanted to picture her kneeling, in her skirt, on one of those foam knee-protectors and digging holes for new bulbs or annuals or perennials. I wanted to help pull weeds and put soil in behind the flowers she’d relocate. I wanted to say, “look, Nana!” and hear, “Isn’t that nice” in her way, where it isn’t a question, actually.

I thought about all the times we’d gone in her light blue Oldsmobile, and later her pearlescent Geo Metro, to the library. The only reason I had a library card was because of her. I thought about the walks up to Ponca, the jumping in puddles, the blowing bubbles, the reading; the painstaking time she would spend putting my hair up in curlers and wrapping a silk scarf around so I can walk home, the way she answered the phone (“erm, hello”) in her way, where it really isn’t a question, again, actually.

Nana was one of those people who I pictured having in my life until I was old and grey. She’d just always be there somehow. And now she’s gone.

When my parents first hired her, I was about six months old. She came looking slightly like a 1940s war nurse and told them that she would be addressed as Mrs Meyer. It wasn’t long before she was Nana; my Nana.

I drove back to my neighborhood that night and sat in my car for ages listening to music. I had been texting Andrew sporadically due to it being the middle of the night, the news, and the drive. I suddenly felt very strongly that I should just be honest with him about what had happened. We’d been talking such a short time and we didn’t even know each other, but I needed to see right then and there how this was going to go.

Either he would say no, we barely know each other, I don’t need this right now, I’m out with friends (he was out at the bar with friends, I knew); or he wouldn’t say any of those things. Somehow I knew he wouldn’t react like the former. And he didn’t. he said he was so sorry and he wished there was something he could do; if he wasn’t drinking, he’d drive out to see me.

We talked about sad music and how happy music doesn’t actually help when you’re sad because you can’t relate to it in the moment. He sent me a youtube link and said it always helped him. I thought, great, what is this shit going to be. I clicked on the link and as soon as the title popped up, my heart skipped a beat: Morning in May by Ludo.

No one knows Ludo. And anyone who might have heard Ludo certainly hasn’t heard the Broken Bride album. But here this stranger was, sending me the song from Broken Bride that never fails to bring me to tears.

This discovery turned into a conversation lasting until 3am, even though he had to work early. He made me smile and even laugh that night, one of the worst nights in my life. I couldn’t help but think that God had all of this planned from the start. Hell, I’m pretty sure Nana had a hand in this. If I hadn’t been texting him that night, I’d have been alone in my thoughts and feelings. Everyone else was asleep or out of town. Nana took care of that. She was a caregiver til the end.

A couple days later, Andrew and I had our first date planned. I hadn’t had those butterflies in a long time. I didn’t want to spend too much time getting ready or coming up with any speeches or whatever. I was gonna be me and that was it. Furthermore, I wanted to be myself, not ‘better.’ I finally had hope again.

The date went amazingly. I knew I was in trouble from the get-go. And the best part was that he felt the same way. He asked to see me a few days later and did I say I was in trouble? Because I was in big, fucking trouble. Wow.

I’m being quite vague, I know. I just- well, this is very precious to me.

It hasn’t yet been two months, but I can’t remember the last time I’ve felt happier, more comfortable, and more like myself.

And then since it can’t be all sunshine and roses, the continued car accident stress..

I’ve been seeing a chiropractor three times a week. My body was working 42% harder than it should have been. (Not sure if I ever talked about the scans). My nerves had practically shut down. It’s getting a bit better; it’s changing anyway. I had an MRI on my right foot, come to find out that I have two fractured toes. That explains a lot. I have patella baja (shortened patella) in both knees thanks to the trauma. My wrists (left much more so than right) are still weak. Some bones in my chest pop if I stretch. Oh yeah, and I’ll need to start physical therapy now that the holidays are over.

The court date for the driver-at-fault drunk to enter his plea is in a week. I wonder how the past four-almost-five months have been for him. I see, via public record, that he’s just bought a house. Can’t be going too badly then.

Meanwhile, I’m just broken. Sure, it didn’t kill me. It could have, but it didn’t. It still could, but I won’t let it. What it did was make me weaker. Angrier. Cynical. It made me scared. It made me paranoid. It has taken so much from me and continues to take more.

Meanwhile, I’m the one who’s been in prison.

The year of the anthem: “I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever)” by Stevie Wonder

Since I haven’t written in an unforgivably long time, please enjoy this exceptional write-up and all the feels that go along with it.

Thirty Three

stevie-talking-book

During the first semester of my sophomore year, I took a class called “Race and Gender in Pop Music.” Fortunately for me, this didn’t simply just mean pop music, but also extended into the breadth of rock and roll. I loved it.

One day, our professor gave us this task at the end of class:

“Next time we meet, I want you to think of what your anthem is – like a song that really represents you.”

And she gave us a week to think.

By next class, I hadn’t thought of a song – I couldn’t choose. I told the class “White Flag” by Dido was my anthem because it was the first song that I felt like I ever “got into.” After that song, I became a Dido fan and that’s how I became the music-geeky person you know today.

Since then, I always liked pondering about what…

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Vindication (Trust Your Instincts)

The last two times I had major gut feelings about leaving the house, I ignored them and ended up getting slammed into by neglectful/drunk drivers.

This time, I listened to my instincts and stayed home. Sure, a lot of it had to do with anxiety this time, but that doesn’t change the fact that all I’ve heard of today have been slick roads, accidents, stalled vehicles, and backed-up traffic.

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Not that I felt that I needed support for my decision to cancel my appointment this morning out of fear, but it certainly seems like my fears were justified today. Which subsequently lets me feel a little less affected and a little more responsible.

What Keeps Me Awake Now

Sunday, my dad invited us over for homemade pizza. “Aw yiss,” I answered with much enthusiasm. It’d been ages since he’d made pizza. I got the details from my brother and set my phone down.
Suddenly, I thought about what he’d said. “Pizza at dad’s.” “At dad’s.” Oh my God, I’d have to drive to dad’s. I started to panic. Okay, well, I could just take this back way and weave through the neighborhood so I avoid the street where I was hit. Then I could just park and walk to his place. But which way should I take? I don’t even want to take Center. I’ll take the interstate to I. No. I’ll take Center, but I’ll turn off on 132nd or something; maybe I can find the neighborhood that way. Then I’ll park and walk.
Wait. Maybe Conor can just pick me up. Then he can drive me. No. That’s stupid. Why don’t I just drive to his place and then he can drive me.
No sooner had I had that thought, Conor texted me: “Just drive over here and I’ll drive us to dad’s!”
Tears of relief hit me as I texted him back that I was literally just thinking the same thing. Panic attack averted.

I closed my eyes as he turned onto 120th Street. I know Mary was trying to talk to me, but I heard nothing. I didn’t open my eyes until we stopped in dad’s driveway.

Tonight, it started snowing. As soon as I saw a tweet about it, I jumped up and rushed to the deck. I was overjoyed – I love snow. It’s beautiful and calming and quieting and ’tis the season. I stood out on the deck for a moment and let it land in my hair. It was bliss.
As soon as I had sat back down and wrapped up in a blanket, I realized, with horror, that I would have to drive in it come morning for my orthopod appointment.
Now. I have never been fearful of driving in the snow. Or rain. Or wind. Or whatever inclement weather we get in Nebraska. (Okay, not hail). The only reason I’ve ever complained about driving in it is because it seems like everyone else in Omaha forgot how to operate a motored vehicle at the most inopportune moment. Just slow the fuck down and be aware of some things and it’s just like driving any other day: don’t be an asshole.
However, I now have to drive in weather with people I already don’t trust.

I want to call and change my appointment. Can it wait until another day? Not the first day of snow. I’ve been rear-ended on dry pavement. I’ve been hit head-on on dry pavement. Now there’s snow. People can’t have remembered their snow tires already; it’s so early. People aren’t ready for this; they’ve forgotten how to drive in it. Please don’t make me go. I need to go. I know I need to go. I’m still in pain and I need to go. Can’t it just wait until another day?
What if I can’t do it? I couldn’t even get out of bed to write this post – I started thinking about what I have to do in a few hours and I became crippled. What if I can’t do it? I can’t even sleep tonight, worrying about it. I have to do it another day. That’s all there is to it. I can’t. I just can’t.

Jesus. This isn’t me. I’m not like this. I wasn’t like this. The only thing worse than the anxiety is the anger.

I’ll have to drive in the snow eventually, I know. I can’t let this fear take over my life. But what was once a source of childish delight for me is now just another trigger. Just another thing that keeps me awake now.

Richard, My Darling

Richard, My Darling

After all the fruitless searches (thanks, Peter Gabriel), the frustration with MINI of Alexandria in Virginia (thanks, ‘salesman,’ for calling me back jerking me around and completely blowing me off), and the otherwise mentally-crippling anxiety (thanks, driver-at-fault), I found and bought the perfect MINI Cooper.

In the end, it was the first one I’d bookmarked. Of course.

I came across this blue beauty at MINI of Loveland in Colorado and really liked the look of it… minus the non-black wheels and the lack of sunroof and lack of heated seats. It was almost 100% what I wanted, but I wasn’t going to the whole settling predicament.

I had also found a nigh-perfect one in Virginia that ended up being sold right out from under me as I was speaking to the salesman about transport prices. The funniest thing was when someone from their customer relations department called me:
Guy: “I was wondering if you’d like to come out today or tomorrow to test drive something.”
Me: “Um, I’m in Omaha, Nebraska, so… no?”
Guy: “Oh, okay, (blah blah) Is there a time later this week you’d like to come out and take a look at our inventory?”
Me: “…. No. As I’m in OMAHA, NEBRASKA and I will not be booking a flight to Virginia, where you are, to test drive a vehicle I’ve been driving for the past four years.”
Guy: “Oh, okay, I totally get that. (Me thinking: Do you?) What can we do to earn your business?”
Me: “Well, you would have had my business already, but your salesman sold the car I wanted right out from under me, so I’ll be finding a MINI elsewhere.”
Guy: “Okay, well, please let us know if we can (blah blah blah).”

Yeah, no. I also got two calls from an English salesman (I see your strategy, MINI of Alexandria) assuring me that they’re looking all over for a MINI for me and they’re checking the auction list because they have the biggest used inventory in the country la-di-dah. Well, *checks watch* I wonder how long that list is, because, uh, I still haven’t heard back. Stay tuned to see if they ever find me a car!

Anyway. After all that garbage, I went back to the one in Colorado. The day I found it, I sent an email through their website asking some details and got a call from a salesman within the hour. It was late, even; it was like, past 6pm. Dave Parent of MINI of Loveland called me during an ice cream social they were having – yeah, the dealership was having an ice cream social – to tell me about the car and ask me some questions, etc. After that call, I already had an emotional attachment to this place and this car. I kept the tab up on my browser for days.

We talked again, and I told him the only thing kind of holding me up is the fact that it doesn’t have black wheels; by the time I spend the money buying black wheels, it’ll be way over my budget. He goes, “Why don’t I see if another MINI on the lot can swap wheels with it.” I was like, dude, if you can do that, it’ll be my MINI.

So a couple days later, he calls me back and tells me he wasn’t able to swap wheels without it significantly changing the sticker price, which I understood. This was after the MINI of Alexandria ridiculousness and I’d about had it. I told him the only other thing I wanted on that car was a luggage rack. He said, “I’ll put it on myself.”

Within ten minutes or so, I’d told him to do that and have it on by the next evening because I’ll drive down to get it myself. I could have had it transported for about $500, but where’s the adventure in that? Plus, I’m too damn impatient.

The next day (see, impatient), dad and I rented a car and set out for Colorado. This was the first time I’d been behind the wheel of a car since my accident (so, about forty-one days at this point), and I looked like this:
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The drive there went smoothly. There was quite a bit of anxiety to overcome, but luckily it was all interstate. The trees were changing colors and the weather was gorgeous. It was the perfect day for this journey. Then we encountered 5 o’clock traffic upon entering Greeley, which I hated. I was totally exhausted by the time we made it to Loveland.

But, boy, did MINI of Loveland totally rejuvenate me. That place is like a toy store to me. There are so many fun things and beautiful MINIs. The people are all great and enthusiastic. No one could believe I walked away from my accident and even asked to use the photos to show at meetings and to customers. Apparently, I’ve already helped sell a couple cars to people who worry about the small size of the MINI being unsafe. That makes me feel good.

I really wanted to cry right there at the sales desk. I’d just accomplished such a daunting task and overcome so many fears. I knew I was heading toward my freedom. I was heading toward the key to putting this awful experience and time behind me. It was going to be worth it. And my salesman and finance gal couldn’t have made the process any easier once I got there. They stayed past close and helped us into the MINI and directed us to an awesome BBQ place just down the road.

The next day, dad and I got up and had breakfast at the hotel. We were going to pop over to Estes Park to see the hotel from The Shining, but it was so foggy. Instead, we hit the road and took a detour through Wyoming, up to Alliance, Nebraska. I had never been in Wyoming and I had never been as far northwest in Nebraska. The drive through Scotts Bluff actually took my breath away – I couldn’t believe the land formations and valleys and trees. Who knew we had such a diverse landscape! In Alliance, we ate at a cute little diner off of Main Street and then popped over to see Carhenge.

Yes, like Stonehenge.
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I’d never seen it, so it was amazing. Dad and I spent some time geeking out, and then continued on home. Of course, with such a detour, we ended up with part of our drive past sunset. I hadn’t driven in the dark since the accident. Then we encountered some emergency closure of I-80 and had to squeeze into a caravan of semi trucks with trailers on a two-lane highway through a bunch of small towns. We were stop-and-go, and I was constantly worried the truck behind me wouldn’t stop in time, and at one point on the two-lane highway I randomly noticed how close opposite traffic was (I missed the median and four-lane interstate). There were a few times where my heart may have stopped.

We made it home safely and upon backing into my garage, I broke down. I did, not the car. I sat in my car and had a little weep. I stroked the steering wheel and tenderly caressed the dashboard and ran my fingertips over the MINI wings emblem. No joke. I didn’t know when I’d be back in a MINI Cooper. Let alone one so perfect for me. I didn’t know when I’d be driving again. I didn’t know how I’d do driving again. I made myself drive to Loveland, not only for the fun of it, but as a test. One I had no other option but to pass. And no matter how the drive there went, I had to turn around and drive right back. I was so proud of myself. I’d done it. And now I had him. My MINI. My darling. My Richard. Yes, that’s his name: Richard.

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It’s been a couple weeks now that I’ve had him. I’ve got my C. Friis rally sticker on the back driver’s-side window, I’ve got the grille badges on: a black, white, and grey Union Jack and then the Sir Alec quote, “I don’t want bloody women driving my car.” Those were the two I’d had on my British Chap; the grille, badges, and my license plate disappeared in the accident. He’s taken me to a friend’s wedding and to Target (oh lawdy, how I had missed going to Target) and to Starbucks. He whips ’round the roundabouts and is just a total stunner. I really couldn’t be happier with him.

Alas, I’m still incredibly anxious while driving. I have been doing my best to keep my eyes fixed ahead and not on the rear view window when I’ve come to a stop and I know someone is coming up behind me. Every car coming opposite is going to swerve at the last minute and hit me, I just know it. Honestly, the only way I’ve been able to get around that is to just resign to the fact that if that’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. And I’ll be hurt again or I could die. And my car will be wrecked again and I’ll have to start all over again.

Everyone says because I’ve been hit twice, statistically it won’t happen again. I almost failed statistics, so I’m not really sure I can grasp that logic. I think, if anything, it’s even more likely to happen again. I feel like a target. The dumb motherfucker who decided drinking and driving was a good idea that night sought me out. and now I feel like a target. Everyone is going to hit me and I don’t trust anyone. That person is going to decide they want that exit and they’re going to side-swipe me at the last minute. That person isn’t going to see me and they’re going to send me into the guard rail. That person is going to drop something and jerk the wheel and hit me head-on.

There was one day, though. One day since I’ve been back from Loveland, I went for a drive. Just to drive. Like I used to. I took Richard to Ponca Hills, my old neighborhood. I took him through the hills and around the bends and past my home that will always be my home. I took him out on I-680 and saw the trees looking like autumn and the sun was shining and I felt like myself again. Just for a moment. I hadn’t felt like me in a long time. I was on my way back.

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I am on my way back.

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