Something incredible has happened in the last couple of months. I have entered the highway ramp-of-no-return and merged into traffic. I’m not speaking metaphorically. I have been absolutely YELLOW with fear of the highways and have always taken the local roads. I could make it to the grocery store and back, but out of my neighborhood? Never.
I can’t understand why I have been the only person on the planet, or at least in New York, who couldn’t get on the highways; they are freaking terrifying. Cars and massive trucks whiz violently by at 9000 miles an hour. Even at my drunkest I only had the nerve for the small streets, which is terribly ironic for someone who was mostly suicidal.
I live in a part of Queens which is…. not really cool. And I’ve been stuck. Sure, I can take the Long Island Railroad into Manhattan, but visit my friend in Westchester? Hell, no. Take my kids over the Throgs Neck Bridge to the Bronx Zoo? Sorry, but Daddy will have to drive. The great big mall out on Long Island where I could buy a bit of clothing, other than the sacks which I have rotated throughout my sorry years as an addict, and well into sobriety? Nope, need Grandma to navigate the Long Island Expressway.
Recently my son and I were late to a therapy appointment. It would be an easy-breezy, two-exit jaunt on the Clearview Expressway South which would have shaved 12 minutes off our trip. In a moment of bizarre, warrior-like fabulousity, I let out a yawp of battle and veered into the “on” ramp, knowing that I would have to commit to the entrance, or die. It was really pretty silly, because there were about 2 cars on the entire highway at that moment, but the action was so grand and was such a leap of faith, that I felt my cajones growing larger, never to shrink again.
My next journey was to Astoria to move my mom into my house. I was really mad at John that day, and in an Eff-You kind of spirit, decided that I would be damned if I would ask for his help, and thus would have to drive to her apartment myself. I shouted, “For Sparta!!!” and launched back onto the Clearview, but this time merged onto the Long Island Expressway and even the Grand Central Parkway! Success! Huzzah!
My next foray of freedom was to a Trader Joe’s; I always had to shuffle my feet like a little girl and meekly ask for a ride from anybody who had a free moment. This was a helluva scary ride. I had to take the Jackie Robinson Parkway, where there is a section of curving, snake-like barriers sandwiching one’s car between concrete walls. Everyone is travelling very, very fast. I had to keep saying out loud in a calm voice, “If you panic, you will die. If you panic, you will die.”
That same route allowed me to go to the Queens Share-a-Thon over Thanksgiving: the days-long meeting which saves many an addict from going down in a blaze of glory. Last year no one had the time to take me. This time I went twice, and it was wonderful. Especially after the added stress of Hurricane Sandy and the following Nor’easter, I really needed to be in a room of recovering Alcoholics. Of course, I was sweating with fear from braving the highway from hell. Even a really large Queens-Born Italian plumber agreed with me, “Oh Yeah, the Jackie Robinson is fuckin’ scary.”
Today I decided to take another uncharted jaunt to Williamsburg, Brooklyn. This trip was thrilling. It was fairly easy: a straight shot on the BQE (Brooklyn/Queens Expressway). I ended up on Bedford Avenue, the coolest place in the entire New York area. I window shopped the boutiques and stared at all the hipsters, and went to the Bedford Cheese Shoppe, where I bought a quarter pound of four random favorites of the Maitre Fromager; some of these were simultaneously smelly and delicious, and they all were accompanied by clever descriptions – one of which used the term “Stank-ass.” What a delight. I may even find some meetings where I can scout out some like-minded folks. Who knows?
As an added benefit to my new highway skills, I can flee the state, should the need ever arise.
I am free.