Drive Safely by Holly Alderman

“I’m really mad at you right now.”

“Why?” I mumbled. We were sitting in her car in the darkness of her garage. Her temperament had oscillated between dissociated and hypomanic all night. Now she seemed to have settled on conscious hypomanic dissociation. Between my previous tour in treatment and two decades of therapy, I was fluent in clinical jargon. Assessing and diagnosing my peers’ behavior became second nature, and this round of treatment was no exception. No one was safe, especially her.

She had dragged me down to Malibu after program in an attempt to be social. I was drained and unfortunately for me in that moment, being in day-treatment allowed for this; these tireless evening excursions. I didn’t want to deal with her incessant backseat driving all the way from Westwood. I drive slower than most people you’d find on the geriatric floor. We had been fighting all day about the other Kacey in program. She had this inane theory that if there were another Kacey around, they were invariably better than her. I only agreed to go to prove to her that she was the better Kacey. I hated being in Malibu; it reminded of the pretentious bubble I grew up in. The Kacey’s decided to take a sunset walk on the beach. The other one was walking her boyfriend’s dog ahead of us on the trail. I slipped my left hand into her jacket pocket in an effort to keep it warm in hers. She gave me the no PDA look before the other one had a chance to see what was going on. I had trouble containing my own feelings, but always found a way to placate hers.

The smell of the cement walls from the garage wafted into the car.

“Because I wanted you to kiss me earlier and you didn’t.”

After the beach, she shuffled me all over Vons searching for the perfect fucking notebook. It had to be purple. I knew she’d never use it.

“I honestly had no idea.”

But I did.

I don’t even think I waited more than five seconds after she confirmed what I was dying to hear all night before I took her face in my hands and kissed her. Our breathing had been in sync the whole time. I kissed little patches of her porcelain face. She had the softest skin. I could have stayed in that position for the rest of the night. I didn’t want to move. I could feel her nude lips gently kissing my face. I just wanted to hold her; for her to hold me. I had never experienced that feeling before. Nothing else in the world mattered.

She pulled back.

“What are you thinking?” she said. We asked each other that question about eight hundred times a day. I was sure we’d be asking each other when we were in the old folks home.

“I don’t want to leave.”

I felt obligated to reciprocate. The one time I didn’t want to ask the question.

She looked at me with a blank stare.

“I just want to be close to you.”

She nodded her head in what appeared to be forced agreement, hoping I couldn’t tell. I went to kiss her again.

We pulled away at the same time.

“What are you thinking?” she asked.

“I don’t want to leave. I won’t feel safe when I do. I just want to keep kissing you. What are you thinking?

I couldn’t even look at her while I waited for her answer. All I could do was stare at those fucking pipes in the garage of her borrowed apartment. Those pipes knew all our dirty little secrets. They knew things I wasn’t even privy to. She begged me to keep our secret. At this point, it was only hers-and the corroded pipes.’ I felt as dirty as they were, but for her, my tarnish was only just starting to appear.

“The same but I’m super tired.”

I turned her face towards mine. I could see in her eyes how tired she was. The glazed look in her self-described shit brown eyes.

“Ok, I’ll walk you upstairs.”

I tried to prolong the walk. I ordinarily walk at a glacial speed, much like I drive. I dawdled more than usual. I didn’t want to leave.

“Are you going to walk me all the way up? It’s easier if you leave from here.”

I knew that was her way of finding out if I cared enough to walk her up the stairs to apartment 250.

“I’m walking you to the door, asshole.”

I walked behind her. Up the three flights of stairs from the garage. At the top I grabbed the straps of her purse and pulled her towards me. I had to kiss her one last time. Then I pulled away to say goodnight. But I needed more. I didn’t look back as I walked away, as she said her standard, “Drive safe.”

I always do.

Holly Alderman
IMG_8873Holly A. Alderman completed her BA at Antioch University Los Angeles in Creative Writing, after many years of majoring in Spanish and film at various other universities throughout the country.