It wasn’t a big thing, just an emissions test, just another thing on my to-do list for the day. Except it had to happen today, because I waited too long and only had a few days left before my car tabs expired. On the way, crossing the bridge in my good old Jetta, I started thinking about what would happen if she failed the test? I mean, I got her almost 20 years ago! She runs fine, I take good care of her, but who knows! Maybe she’s finished and I don’t even know it. I’d have to buy a new car, I can’t afford a new car, but maybe now is when I ditch the car entirely and start riding a bike. But I could get hit, I could get killed in this traffic. The traffic in this town gets every day.
And then suddenly for some weird reason, I’m thinking about the GRE test I took a zillion years ago so I could get into grad school. The test was really important. And I was going to fail, no question about it. I studied, I practiced but I knew: it was only a matter of time before I started my new life as a loser, a nobody and a nothing, a GRE disaster. Every day the test loomed larger and larger in my mind until it absorbed every waking thought—it was my future, my life! Soon I found myself drinking wine, a lot of wine, just to make the noise in my head go away for a little while, and it worked. The night before the test I had to polish off all the wine I had until finally, gratefully, I passed out. The next morning I woke up slumped on the couch, drooling, a deadening hangover pummeling my brain. The clock showed I had 45 minutes to get to the test.
Well, I made it to the test, I suppose. I suppose you could say that. God, that was so long ago and here I was, taking the 4th ave exit to get my emissions test, fear welling up inside me, my stomach churning and my hands trembling on the steering wheel. I could feel my heart racing. What the heck was going on? I headed out to run errands and then, boom, some transformation, some weird space/time slip-up took over. I was filled with dread as I pulled into line behind a dozen other newer, better cars that probably had no emissions at all. Beautiful, magic cars with excellent, competent drivers.
I closed my eyes and breathed, feeling my butt in this familiar old leather seat, my hands easing up, resting lightly on the steering wheel. A tiny wave of relief rippled through me, and I relaxed. It was just a silly old test, everything is okay, I told myself. When I opened my eyes, the line had moved and I eased into position. I was up next.