Illegal Truck, Part One

My husband’s truck is backed into the driveway with expired tags. This is the first time we’ve ever had expired tags on a vehicle and we are a little paranoid. Kinda like the first time you are pulled over with a dime bag hidden in your center console and you’ve been speeding, but you’re not high, and you keep fidgeting and not making eye contact with the cop while he lectures you on the importance of safety. Then he asks for your registration and for a second you wonder if the dime bag, that you bought for a friend, is actually in your center console, or did you put it in your glove box? Cause you weren’t going that far anyway. I mean, you just have to make it to your friend’s birthday party across town so you can surprise her with the dime bag, and you can both laugh and laugh cause it’s been so long, and then she can roll the joint, and then all fifteen of your closest pals gather around nervously to smoke it, even though you are all well into your 20s now and this sort of thing doesn’t suit you. And if you did put it in your glove box, is it going to fall out when you open it for your registration? Oh no! Oh, whew! It’s not in your glove box.

Let me back up.

My husband’s truck tags expired in the state of North Carolina in June. We moved to Georgia on April 1st, so we decided to wait to switch tags until May since we clearly had the time. I know, I know, you’re supposed to do it within in 30 days. Does anyone actually do that? Anyway, being the good citizens we are (cough) we started looking up what we needed at the beginning of May. First we had to switch our DLs to Georgia. Well I did mine rather quickly because I needed a Georgia DL to get a library card. Also the state of Georgia makes it super easy to get your DL. You do a bunch of pre-registration online, then you show up with your old DL, your passport, and your land deed or lease agreement and boom! Twenty minutes later I was walking out the door with my new DL. So I assumed the car tags would be the same.

First Jerimiah needed to get his DL which is a bit more difficult since he travels a bunch for work, and when he is in town he is at his office from 8 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday, which is of course when the DL Office is open. He finally got it done, however, mid-May. Next step was tags. So Jerimiah looked up online what we needed. According to what he read we were missing only one thing: an emissions test. But, wouldn’t you know it, since we had moved into the state his check engine light came on. So, because of the schedule above, I had to take care of the emissions test.

First I go to the parts store to have them run the code. (I’m sorry about the car talk, when you’re married to a car guy and your son wants to be an automotive engineer when he grows up, you pick up a few things you wish you hadn’t.) So they run the code, which just means they can tell me what is triggering the check engine light. Jerimiah had already warned me that it was probably the gas cap. That is what set it off last year too. In any event, I was to buy any part they said I’d need.

The first thing she said was the gas cap. Le sigh. So I bought a new one, and asked her how long I should drive before the light goes off (if your check engine light is on you will not pass an emissions test, FYI). She said 10 miles. For the record, this is very, very wrong. Follow along. So I drove the truck 15 miles and it didn’t go off. I went back and bought the second part on the list which was the Vapor Canister Purge Valve and I went home.

That night Jerimiah and Jackson basically took his truck apart in the driveway to get to the part and still could not. He was frustrated, I was worried, and Jackson was covered in grease, which he totes loved. When I turned the truck on the check engine light was off! Hooray! Except, it was only off because Jerimiah had pulled out the battery to get to the part, which reset the electronic system. This was May 21st, which is important because that meant I still had to get the truck to pass an emissions test, but quickly because we were driving it to Missouri for Memorial Day Weekend that Friday.

So Jerimiah tells me that I probably need to drive it more to see if the light comes back on. I do not heed his advice and go right to the testing place the next morning. I’m on a strict schedule. The truck fails. The inspector tells me I have to drive it like 70 miles in order for the engine to go through all the cycles it needs to go through, which is eight in case you are just really, really interested in this. So, I drive it 70 miles. It fails again. This time right as the inspection place closes. I will have to try again the next day.

Damn it, this is gonna have to be a two-parter. Sorry, y’all. But we all need a breather soon.

So, the next day I pass and run over to the tag office in Decatur. I get there with all my paperwork in a folder and I am met with a policeman at the front door who tells me that this location is closed for Memorial Day. I say, Whaaaa?! Where do I go? He tells me every one of them in the state is closed because maintenance, holiday, blah, blah, blah. I’m pissed. I get into my car and call Jerimiah. I just know that he will flip out and validate all my feelings at this point.

You are not going to believe this… I pause to build suspense. They are closed until the 28th!

Silence for a moment, then…

Oh, yeah, that’s right.

Panic! Not Just at the Disco

The first time I remember having a panic attack I was 17 years old. I’m almost positive, looking back, that I’d had them before that, but I just didn’t know what to call it. Once, when I was about nine, I was so nervous waiting for my mom to come pick me up from a sleepover, that I had to go sit in my friend’s bathroom, away from all the noise and laughter. I was trembling, and my hands and feet were clammy, and my chest felt very tight. I sat in the bathtub, pulled the curtain closed, and waited for my friend’s mom to open the basement door and call down to tell me that my mom was there. In hindsight, that was probably one of my first panic attacks, but I didn’t know it at the time. I did know, however, that I was different than the other girls.

At seventeen I woke up in the middle of the night. I’ve always struggled with sleep, so I didn’t think much of it. This was back before you kept your cell phone charging next to your head, so I would just lie awake and stare at the ceiling listening for unfamiliar noises and worrying, mainly, about all the things that could go wrong in my life. What if I didn’t pass my next chemistry test? What if my mom found out that I had pot stashed in my dresser drawer? Those sorts of things. This particular night I remember with clarity, because it was the first time I thought about death. I wasn’t suicidal, never have been. Save for that time I was put on a medicine to help with anxiety and it didn’t react well with me. But we will save that for another time. What I mean is, I became hyper-aware for the first time, that one day I would die. That’s the funny thing about this life. It ends the same for everyone. And when you’re a kid or a reckless teenager, you don’t think too much about that. Until the day you do.

Existential dread or angst, I jokingly call it now. Jokingly because it happens to me all the time, I sort of live in this space, and it happens to a lot of us, most of use, from time to time. But when I was seventeen, I didn’t know what the hell it was. I just realized I would die, then wondered how I would die, then ventured into this whole new world of anxiety and worry that was never there before. It struck me so violently that I found myself awake for days, unable to sleep, consumed first and foremost by the idea that I was going to die, I had convinced myself, at any moment.

Of course I did the worst possible thing, I told no one. I went about life as normal as I could, all the while plagued with these constant, OCD thoughts about death. In AP English I’d think about death. In Chemistry, I’d think about death. At lunch, death. Hanging out at my friends’ houses after school, talking about crushes and pretending to care about my make-up and hair, death.

Then one day, months after the first thought, I had a total and complete meltdown. I was still a kid, as much as I thought otherwise, so I had my meltdown in a totally kid way. First, I flipped out at school. I got into a fight with my best friend, on purpose, because I wasn’t happy and she was and that pissed me off. Then I hitched a ride home halfway through the day with another friend (read: we skipped school and got high, then went to Taco Bell). Afterward, she dropped me off at home. I forgot that I don’t normally beat my mom home from work (don’t smoke weed kids, mkay), so she was confused when she got there and I was home. This led to a fight when she accused me of skipping school. I was appalled that she would “accuse” me of such a thing, then I went into my room, and slammed my door. (Ugh, moms are the worst!)

That night my mom went out and she told me not to leave the house, I was “grounded” in as much as she could ground me. So at about 8:00 pm, a friend picked me up and we left to go smoke more weed down at the river. Here’s the thing. The “river” was the cool place to hang, way down by the railroad tracks, because we were totes sad, sordid, teenagers with the weight of the world on our shoulders, oh poor, pitiful us… We were living every single scene from #MySoCalledLife.

The cops came, as they often do, and everyone took off running. Well, I don’t run, ya dig? Even when I think my life is in danger. Like if a bear came at me in the woods I would be the last one there, trying to reason with the bear, all, Listen bear, I’m mostly fat and who likes the fatty parts of the meat? So I just sort of walked away, down the railroad tracks to an old railcar. (Insert the Daria soundtrack). Turns out the cops weren’t too hellbent on arresting a few teens passing a dime bag, so they took off, but there I was alone, at night, a little high, on the train tracks. When, you guessed it, a train came.

Now, I’m not suicidal (see above), so meandering around the live tracks at night, weren’t exactly what I was going for. In fact, I was scared shitless, and I started back to the riverfront park to find my friends, but they had left my ass. That’s about the time the intrusive thoughts started up again. I know it, I told myself, I’m going to die and this is probably the night. I could smell the fire burning from the hobo village (I don’t think that is politically accurate now, but that’s what we called it) under the bridge, the train was approaching, my friends had left me, and there may or may not be cops lurking in the woods waiting to arrest me for being out after curfew. Plus, I was going to die. Maybe not that night, but certainly some day.

I made it down to the park, where there was a large mound of grass, and a well-lit walking trail. I sat down as the train approached, and all the things hit me at once. My chest tightened and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. My hands became clammy, my feet went numb. The train hit the city limits. The thoughts raced through my mind. Things are changing, it won’t always be this way. The lights on the track flashed their warning, the bars lowered. Breathe, Missy, breathe. The bells chimed. The engine gave a loud hiss. I can’t stop time, one day I will be here on this earth, and the next I will not be and the whole wide world will still spin around without me. The sound of the wheels on the wood, louder and faster. I’m going to die. The train wooshed by. All the people I love, we will all be gone. And then, just like that, it was all over.


Jesus, this all sounds dramatic. But it really felt like the end of the world. Of my world, anyway. And sometimes, some days, it still does. I wish to all the universes that this was something that I grew out of, or something that never happened again. Something that goes away every day when I take my pills. But no, it’s always here. And I’ve had about ten or so of the actual, painful, Am-I-having-a-heart-attack panic attacks in my life. I can remember each one of them with a clarity I wish I could have given to my chemistry homework. The time Jerimiah had to hold me in the living room because I couldn’t sit still. The time I had to excuse myself from class because I thought the walls were caving in on me. That time I was driving through Tennessee, my son snuggled up in the backseat, and I had to call my friend just to talk. Thankfully, I have people, and thankfully I know when to reach out.

I wanted to share this today for two reasons: 1. It is coming. I’m headed down a dark, bleak hole, and I know it and I feel it, and there is absolutely nothing I can do about it. The stress is inching up in my neck and in the next few days I will be down for the count. It’s not anything different than it was yesterday, or last year, or 10 years ago. I just know how to read the signs now. How to better equip myself for the fall. Which leads me to number 2. I’m still here. I’m still alive, and this is only temporary. One of my favorite writers likes to remind us that #DepressionLies, and shit yeah it does. But man, it doesn’t feel like it in the moment. It doesn’t feel like it when it’s 2:00 am or 2:00 pm and you are in your bed, covered to your neck in blankets because that is the only way you can get through the day. It doesn’t feel like it when you stop texting friends back, or when you just want to eat chocolate and not make eye contact with your partner or your kid. It feels like you are trapped in this dark place. It feels like you did it all to yourself. It feels like it will never be right again and that you will never be right again. But you will.

Take care of yourselves, y’all.

And I’ll take care of me.

M.