It’s Tuesday. The 13th Tuesday since you left. The 13th Tuesday that I have to get myself out of bed and appear to be okay with life as I now know it. The 13th Tuesday of pretending. The 13th Tuesday of wishing I could have been with you. The 13th Tuesday missing you and our life together.
Driving for Google has its privileges. I get to make my own hours, find new neighborhoods and restaurants that I would never know about and learn new routes for when there is traffic. But most of all, I get to be by myself with my own thoughts for a few hours. Today’s route takes me along the beach. I start day dreaming about the last time we were here. We were so happy. You swore you could teach me how to surf, I knew better. I fell off the board, the board almost hit you in the head, and we laughed at my awkwardness. Sitting on the beach watching you ride the waves that day was the day I realized just how happy I was being with you. You were my world, and we were going to build a beautiful life together.
I am jolted out of my daydream by a group of kids yelling and waving at me. This car, this bright green and white car, is anything but inconspicuous. Driving through neighborhoods, people pose and point wanting to achieve some sense of immortality by being a part of Google forever. These kids want to make sure that the bright red camera was pointed directly at them. I smile and wave as I roll past. It’s a fake smile and a fake wave. I want to tell them that life is not about immortality on Google Maps. It’s not about their smug smiles gracing the screen every time someone searches for 436 Palmetto Drive. Life is about finding your person. That person that makes everything logical again. That person that you can trust. But, I can’t and I won’t. Today, I am simply driving.
Today’s route takes me through neighborhoods of single story bungalows. Images of a time when the beach was a haven for city dwellers in the summer. Their pastel colors blend in perfect harmony with the bright green grass and blue sky. We talked about buying one of these bungalows so that we could live a beach life forever. Something small because we knew that we would spend most of our days on the beach. But, it had to have a large deck for our friends when they came to visit on weekends. We were going to have the best life together. I keep driving further down Palmetto and make a left on Oak, while my Route Manager pings each time a picture is taken. It’s almost calming, this rhythmic ping. A meditation begging me to stop thinking of you.
Oak takes me all the way to Landing Drive. More people wave to me as I drive past them; I try to force a smile and a wave back. I need to stop for something to eat, but the thought of answering questions about the glamour of driving a Google Maps car is just too much for me today. I turn off my Route Manager and swing into the drive through of Starbucks. Latte and protein box in hand, I make my way back out to Landing Drive turning the Route Manager back on. I’m 30 miles into my 100 mile route.
Much like the drive, I cannot escape my thoughts of you. You left 13 weeks ago on a surfing trip to Mexico. It was the day after we were engaged. We were so happy. Our engagement party would be two weeks after you returned, our wedding planned for April the following year. Both would be outside and casual. “Maybe I’ll find the perfect location in Mexico,” you said as you packed your gear. A destination wedding? YES, please! But, you never returned from that trip. Max stopped by once to return your luggage and clothes, but I haven’t heard from him since. Your Mom used to call me every day, but that stopped about five weeks ago. Friends used to call and come to see me, but I think my sadness and anger have become too much for them. Tears start welling in my eyes, and I’m forced to pull over. My route is halfway done, but my world is completely upside down.
Pulling into the Beachwood Mall parking lot, I sit and cry. I cry at least once a day, everyday. Sometimes it happens because I try to clean out your closet. Those clothes are not going to make it to Goodwill on their own. Other times, the wave of emotions comes over me like today. Simple memories erupt into a wail of screams and a river to tears. My Route Manager starts pinging because I’m sitting still. “I know, god-dammit, I know!” I yell at it as if it really has any idea, as if it has any feelings at all. This misplaced anger makes me realize that crying will not bring you back. I wipe the tears from my face and make my way back onto Landing Drive to finish the second half of today’s route.
Landing Drive takes me across the highway and into town. I pass Pizza Palace where you first introduced me to your friends. Max cornered me to explain your history with other girls. Your fiercest protector, Max always knew how to keep you out of trouble and when to push you to do more. Where was he that day in Mexico? Did he tell you that the riptide was too strong? He won’t talk about that day with anyone, not even Sammy and Jason who were there with you. All he says is that the day, “was supposed to be so much different.” I want to know all the details, what the three of them saw and heard and smelled. I want to know what it was like when the authorities finally found you, six miles down the beach. But, no one will tell me.
I see a little boy waving to me as I stop before making a right onto Yellow Ribbon Lane. I don’t know why, but I rolled down my window to say Hello to him. “I like your car,” he says. “Thanks. It’s Google Maps car. It takes pictures as it drives so people can find their way around using GPS.” He smiles, the biggest, cheesy smile, and I smile back. Not my typical fake smile but a true, genuine smile. Something whispers to me, “It’s all going to be okay.” His smile reminds me of yours. It’s warm and kind showing every tooth. It’s a genuine smile.
Five miles later, I turn into the lot to return the car, still smiling. My 100 mile route today felt like 1,000. It’s been 13 Tuesdays since you left. But, this is the first Tuesday that I feel like I’m going to be okay. I miss you terribly, but I found something in today’s drive. I found your smile, in the face of a little boy. It was a smile that told me to keep you alive in my heart. I’m still smiling thinking of you as I get into my car and drive home. Tomorrow will be the first better day. Tomorrow will be Wednesday.