narrative

5 Things Claire Won’t Tell You About Flirting (But You Need To Know)

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From my scandalous “Our Town” high school theater days.

So Daily Dot has these two little articles, another one of those online lists about men and women and sex and what not. What do men not know about lady sex? Men and sex, what do women not know? That’s the whole deal.

Now, since my grandma (hi Grandma Mickie!) reads my blog, I am going to refrain from going into the gory details of my… interesting… love life (or many times, lack thereof). However, in the spirit of singlehood and the fact that it is Valentine’s Day and all that romantic stuff, here is another guide to the workings of my brain and my easily flustered heart if I should ever flirt with you.

  • We probably know each other (and we’re probably friends or acquaintances).

This is a habit that I picked up from high school when I first was becoming less afraid of actually talking to guys. I was swimming in a sea of testosterone whenever I went to band and took my place in the trumpet section, so I had to learn to become comfortable with the male presence. I grew to like having a lot of guy friends.

With that, and the nature of my easily-won-over heart, I have become enamored with a series of guy friends over the years. It’s not even that I think that you’re flirting with me. It’s that we had COFFEE or did some ACTIVITY together and WOW you’re a COOL HUMAN that’s a male and ATTRACTIVE and wouldn’t it be nice if we held hands and watched Star Trek together??

I’ll try to hide it as much as I can, but the descent into my self-conscious worrying will overtake my interaction with you…

  • If I am feeling awkward, I will do one of two things: become professional or pet you (fortunately, I no longer will punch you).

So at this point, I have told at least fifteen of my other friends, “Oh my GOSH I think I TOTALLY have a thing for [insert guy friend’s name here]!!” More likely than not, I can hear people sighing and saying, “That’s nice, Claire” through the words on the screen of my phone.

“Poor [so-and-so’s name]…” my mom will sometimes say.

Not that she doesn’t want me to pursue anyone. It’s that she knows what this particular guy is unknowingly in for.

I’ll try to play it cool really really hard with you. I’ll reward myself for every evenly spoken sentence or “haha” in my texts to you instead of “oh haha, how wonderfully droll!!”

But then my mind with begin to atrophy with worry. Why did I say that his shirt clung well? I think to myself after a conversation. That’s totally too noticeable. I can’t afford to be noticeable.

I am notoriously very obvious when I like you. So I try so hard to not be obvious.

What will end up happening is that if you say a cute or funny or nice or flirty thing to me, I’ll laugh, bury my hands in my face, hyperventilate a little, and then pet you. Yes, pet you. Normally on the back or the shoulder. Sometimes I won’t even touch you; it’ll be like air pats near your skin because if I actually do touch you, then I’ll explode or something.

The opposite of what happens, however, is just as bad. I’ll treat you like a fellow colleague in a fictionalized work environment. This is because while growing up, whenever social interaction terrified me, I would retreat to academia.

I’ll ask you about the weather and your family and your homework like we might as well be talking in a cubicle. My texts to you might as well have a letterhead. The worst, however, is if I shake your hand like we just make a business transaction. That’s when I know in my heart that I really can’t overcome my own flustered nature, so why not shake your hand?

I used to be a bit rougher than I am now and would actually punch crushes or shove them out of chairs. It was like I was enacting some elementary school playground routine that I didn’t live out until I was sixteen.

  • Words don’t really work too well. And my texts to you become weird.

I touched on this slightly in the previous blurb, but this awkwardness becomes more prevalent as time goes on. I eventually will start my “double-texting” paranoia and I will soliloquy whenever I see you. I’ll cater my ranting to something that you’re interested in, like Star Wars or Arcade Fire or some form of sports and I’ll leave no space for you to respond since, well, I figure that if I do the talking for the both of us, then I don’t need to worry about what I’ve said and what you will say since I must’ve said something embarrassing anyway.

  • I will actually face plant on the floor and crawl away if it isn’t going to well.

God forbid I actually tell you how I feel about you. If you should ever reach this point with me, then I apologize. I apologize to those who have experienced this.

I’ll make sure to do this in person because if I do this in a text, it will be in the form of a fifteen-paragraph essay, many of it trying to explain my neuroses.

I will say at least five times, “Let me know if you feel uncomfortable! And it’s okay if you don’t feel the same way!” because I really don’t want you to feel off-put by me, even though it would probably be best if I said it once and didn’t keep bringing up being uncomfortable.

When I do actually tell you that I like you, I’ll whisper it or I won’t actually say it because I don’t want to believe that I am exposing myself the way that I am. I want to pretend like if I can’t hear myself say it, then you never will know what I am even saying.

Normally, I’ll joke about it and say some silly thing and most of the time you’ll be really understanding and tell me that either you’re interested or that you aren’t for different sorts of reasons.

My reactions range from being bashful and giggly to asking you why or why not so that I can add to my mental list of my social behavior to falling on the floor and crawling away. I will just go down like a tree being chopped. It doesn’t matter where – it could be in a normal room or somewhere as public as a bar. And this will be the one time where I actually am not thinking of the sanitary texture of the floor.

  • I will friendzone myself, but in the end, I am okay with this (and a lot of the time, it’s what I want anyway).

Normally after these experiences, I will give myself some time to cool down. I’ll back off for your sake or for my sake or for both of our sakes. I’ll focus on my life with my friends and family and school and work and go back into a normal sort of routine. I have a lot going on, so it’s easy for my mind to swim around with all of the things of life, man.

And then, happily more times than not, we’ll circle back around. We’ll laugh it off or we won’t even bring it up. We’ll catch up and we’ll have a good time talking. A lot of the time, we’ll become friends, the kind of friend that knows that even if you go into my heart and I become flustered, I won’t get you out of my mind. Because you’ll be important to me regardless of what happens.

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I freaked out at the oral surgeon. Sorry Mom.

This past summer, I was supposed to get my wisdom teeth out. That didn’t happen.

Instead, I yelled at my oral surgeon and had to get taken out of the room.

It’s moments like these that are a constant reminder that no matter how much better I think I am, friends, no, I still don’t have it all together.

For this experience, though, I was set up for failure. The stars had been misaligned for what was going to come. For starters, I had been worrying the past few days about the procedure. I was drinking heavily that weekend and was worrying that I didn’t have enough water in my system. Also I didn’t like the idea of someone inducing that kind of a feeling in me. I didn’t want to feel incapacitated unless I made myself incapacitated. Also, I watched my siblings go through the experience a few months before and my sister didn’t have as good of a time as my brother.

The cherry on top was that I couldn’t get the scene from Ghost Town out of my head. You know, when Ricky Gervais goes back to the hospital and freaks out because he “died just a little.”

“You’ll be fine Claire!” my siblings said the night before the surgery. “They give you laughing gas. It’s really fun! Just like having a few beers… which we know you like!” They smirked as they walked up the stairs to go to bed.

“It’s the easiest thing in the world,” my mom consoled. “Just like having a cavity filled. You’ve done this before.”

She went out the day before and bought all of the soft foods – ice cream, soup, jello. She picked up my antibiotics. I was set. All I had to do was sit in a chair for an hour.

I’ll be totally fine. I thought. Just a few days of TV and then I’m back to it. It’ll be nice to just sit and watch TV.

Although it’ll be different when I actually am there to get them taken out.

Unfortunately, I know myself all too well. Mom was parking the car as I walked into the surgeon’s office with its sticky, old, leather chairs and dim lighting.

“You here for your appointment?” the receptionist asked, her head just barely making the viewing window.

“Y-yes…” I said. “I just need to have my mom bring the consent form.”

“Okay,” the receptionist said, rolling her eyes. I know, lady, I should act older for my age too.

“Is she coming in?” the nurse asked, popping in like a cartoon.

“No… she’s waiting for her mom to bring her consent form.”

What is this, the mean girls from high school?

“Okay Claire, well, we’ll tell your mom where you are. If you could just walk down to the end of the hall and it’s the door on the furthest left.

I walked in and there was the chair. The chair.

I had to get some minor oral surgery (stuff that mainly required some numbing) done a few years ago and in that scenario, it was a comical set up. There were way too many machines for a simple procedure and it made me happily think of the birthing scene in Monty Python’s Meaning of Life. There was even a machine that went “Ping!”

This chair, however, was something out of Brazil. It had the small, black side table with devilish metal instruments and a bizarre small TV placed squarely in front of the set-up. The chair was sort of elevated off of the ground and was a pasty color of pink. It was Hell in furniture form.

“Alright Claire, just take a seat, okay,” the nurse said.

Yeah… and then Michael Palin’s going to torture me in a baby mask, I thought.

I was already on edge walking in by myself but I was even more edgy considering I could hear them talking to my mom outside. I just wanted her in here.

Mind you, I am someone that has taken many modes of transportation by myself. I am someone that has no qualms walking alone in a random city for eight hours at a time. I can proudly handle myself in different adult tasks.

But in that moment, there was no one else that I wanted in that room more than my mom.

The oral surgeon came in and, grossly mistaking me as a normal person that would have a nonchalant reaction, made an offhand comment on my breathing state.

“Oh, it sounds like you have a cold,” he said. “We might have to postpone this.”

A COLD? A goddamn COLD? Since when did I have a COLD? Was I willing myself to get stuffy so I wouldn’t have to go through with this? Was I purposefully creating mucus so I could avoid a procedure that 16-year-olds go through?

He took a look inside my mouth and I tried to think of a way to explain for my body.

“Yeah, your throat’s just a little red,” he said.

Verification! My body failed him!

“Well I just, I mean, I just don’t know,” I said, crying already.

“Oh, see, well, we can’t do it now since you’re really stuffed up,” the surgeon said, his tone akin to that of a disappointed uncle.

“Hey Claire, how’s it going?”

Thank goodness, Mom walked into the room at that moment.

“Yeah, we’re thinking that she might have a cold so it would be better to do the procedure later,” the surgeon said, happy to have a real adult in his presence.

“I mean, I know that Lucy and Grant had colds, so maybe I got it from them,” I said, garbling my words and clutching my cheeks. “Lucy has a little bit of a sore throat too.”

“Oh yeah, they were all at Lollapalooza together, so that’s probably where she got it!” my mom said, making sure that her voice was chipper. She does this so I can feel like the situation is not as big of a deal as it is.

“Here’s a tissue box,” the randomly appearing nurse said, reusing her skill but this time with Kleenex.

I took a few minutes to breathe in and out, in and out. I acted out my non-stuffy breathing state multiple times to prove that I was surgery-worthy.

“Okay, yes, it sounds good,” the surgeon sighed.

“We need to have you sign these forms, just these worst case scenario stuff,” the nurse said. I took the clipboard and I must have looked like a ghost.

“You know, just so you can do the surgery,” she reaffirmed.

I’m literally signing my life away. This is it. This really is the end. I really am Ricky Gervais.

“Alright, Claire, they’re going to start now,” Mom said, heading out of the room.

My eyes must have been maniacal because she called out before they closed the door:

“Just don’t think Claire, don’t think about anything.”

That’s the root of it really, I just overthink everything. “Just don’t think so much” is a common phrase from everybody, including myself. That’s why I really like “Breakers” by Local Natives. I should have just played that song in my mind considering I’ve listened to it hundreds of times at this point.

Instead, they were starting up all the horrid machines and my normal go-to memories of happiness weren’t working. The nose mask being placed on my face and the arm pump taking my blood pressure interrupted my reveries of my best concert experiences.

I closed my eyes.

Just don’t think. Just don’t think.

In my mind, Spoon’s “Inside Out” started to play. This helped a little bit. I could feel the psychedelic melody in my brain and I thought of the soothing vocals at the start of the song…

“Okay Claire, we’re going to start to give you oxygen.”

Instead of this statement helping matters, this just brought me back to an incredibly painful experience that I had during a family vacation while skiing in Breckenridge. I got altitude sickness, had to get steroid shots and got very slightly addicted to my handy dandy little oxygen machine that the house doctor gave me for the weekend.

No, no, Claire, this is the good part of Breckenridge, I thought. This is when you got the oxygen. This is happy Breckenridge. Enjoy the oxygen – it’s free!

But the memory of the shots became more prevalent as the surgeon said the most horrifying words:

“Ok, we’re going to look for the place to put the IV in.”

I don’t know why the idea of an IV literally makes me want to crawl out of my skull. I guess maybe it’s because arms are just so fleshy and sensitive and I don’t want some jangling thing sticking out of mine. I hoped that it’d be in my hand or something, a little less intrusive.

“We just need you to dangle your arm.”

DANGLE my ARM? That’s what DEAD PEOPLE IN HOSPITALS DO.

“Oh… um… okay,” I breathed.

The surgeon tightly tied a band around my arm, pulling it so hard that I couldn’t concentrate on the gas anymore.

This is what they do to people who are about to get their limbs amputated!!! OR WHEN YOU’RE A HEROIN ADDICT!

My fear turned into an unpleasant combination of annoyance, anger and hysteria as the surgeon started hitting my hand and probing my arm.

“I thought that there wasn’t going to be a needle in the arm,” I barked.

“Well, we just want to make sure we use the right vein,” he said, his patience with me obviously waning thin.

I started to wiggle around in my seat, re-shifting to try to make my arm feel less wooden and stiff. The nurse cooed me to sit still, attempting to calm me down.

“I just want to let you know that I get very nervous with needles,” I said, my senses starting to tingle. When I actually remembered to breathe, I’d been taking short, deep breaths of the gas.

I should have given this information sooner. Why hasn’t the gas fully knocked me out yet? No. I must stay competent to let them know how I feel.

“I don’t think I can do this,” I shouted, not daring to look at anyone in the room.

“Come on, you can do this,” he said.

“No, I don’t think I can, not yet! I CAN’T DO IT YET.”

I was yelling, full freak-out mode. I was having a panic attack and I felt chained to the horrid, horrid chair.

“Nope, you’re right. We, can’t do it,” and the surgeon wheeled his chair away in one aggressive motion. He stood up and strode out of the room.

“No… no wait, I’m sorry,” I said between sobs. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”

But my powers of emotional persuasion were too great. I got what I wanted… but it wasn’t really what I wanted.

I remained motionless in my chair as the nurse opened the door. Mom was talking to the surgeon, calm and logical, her voice even and unsurprised.

At least she knows what I get like.

The surgeon, however, with his hands on his hips and shoulders occasionaly heaving from heavy sighs, was just introduced to my nature.

“Come on Claire, it’s okay. You’ll be able to have it done at the hospital,” the nurse said.

I got up and stood for a minute. My feelings crashed down on me, my body seeped into the floor. Slowly, I shuffled over to where everyone was standing.

“We’re going to have it done like the other procedure,” Mom said. “It’ll be at the other place too. Just like before.”

“We’ll get you in there for Winter Break,” the surgeon said, relieved he could pass me off to someone else.

And with that, Mom and I left the building. We walked out into the cold, grey day. We drove to McDonalds and, despite the fact that yes, I still cry as hard as a two-year-old in some scenarios, I can make things more difficult for myself and that yes, 16-year-olds have gone through that experience before, I still got to have ice cream with my Mom.

 

 

Unfortunately I got into an accident but at least Enterprise gave me a cupcake

If you ever carpool with me, I should probably ride shotgun.

When I first started driving in high school, I was really, really bad. I waited until I was 18-years-old to get my license. At that point, it was to have it more because I wanted to get to my friends’ graduation parties rather than simply drive. My mom would print out a Google Map for every location but still that didn’t work all of the time. It once took me 50 minutes to get to the mall that I’ve been going to for my whole life.

An upside of learning to drive in the suburbs was that my “bumbling driver” persona wasn’t ever much of an issue. The extent of it was either my friends poking fun at me when I would have trouble pulling into a gas station or my younger siblings (without permits at the time) electing to drive instead of me.

I got a little better by the end of the summer before freshman year of college, but I couldn’t continue to practice once I got to school. I came back during break and drove again, as if I had pressed a reset button. This was the norm for the next several semesters. I had two weeks of a break between my time in London and LA. Over in England, I was used to using the Tube every day.

So renting a car for the LA semester was of course going to go well.

It was, unfortunately, necessary. I’m not accustomed, should you say, to the way in which LA is set up – I thrive on walking. I became accustomed to walking for at least two hours a day while I was in a city. Some days, I was going for six pushing on seven hours. And I loved it, despite the fact that I would sometimes wear out my friends and learned how to better read social cues. In LA, though, the most walking that I did was to and from my car.

In LA, people drive to go to a Starbucks if they’ve left a Coffee Bean that they didn’t like (something that I admit to doing). People also don’t use turn signals. People also don’t merge until the last minute. People also don’t slow down.

In LA, you have to constantly be watching which lane you need to be in because at any moment your exit could come up and you’ll be defying death by crossing over four lanes in four seconds.

I hated it.

I hated every moment of driving in LA. I was enjoying getting to know the city but boy, I turned into a toddler throwing a temper tantrum every time I got into the car. I hated it so much that I would listen to music in the car to distract myself from my hatred, which was a dumb idea in the first place because that’s one of the many things that created my anxiety about distraction.

The day before my accident, I finally thought that I was going to be okay. I had gotten into a fender bender a few weeks before but I thought, That’s it. That’s all it is. Just a fender bender. I’ll be able to know what to do to avoid that.

I was going to test myself.

I drove down to Amoeba Music from Universal City during rush hour – and I had gone on the 101. I even drove down into Amoeba’s basement parking garage without a hitch.

Why would I defy danger, dare you say? Well, I just had to see the Silversun Pickups play and write about it. It was important. I would drive during rush hour into Hollywood for a band.

I was fortunate enough to be one of the last groups of fans waiting outside let into the store. I watched Brian and Nikki from the band play an acoustic set of songs featured on their Singles Collection and they played “Lazy Eye,” my favorite, for the last song. I thought, This is all that rush hour is. That’s it. I’ll be able to know how to drive to see and find music anywhere.

The day of the accident was the first day that I felt the bravery to explore. I missed just going around places and seeing different shops and areas. I passed my normal coffee shop that I would stop at after class and went down to Magnolia Boulevard instead – a cool strip of different restaurants and boutique-y sort of places. My destination was a record store that I hadn’t been to yet.

Not seeing a free parking lot, I parked along a side street.

I got out and walked around. Record store, different food places, an old recording studio facade. It was starting to get cloudier and less aesthetic outside so I was done after about a half hour. I got back in the car and turned on the Swoon album by Silversun Pickups. I was still glowing from that experience from the night before: that song, my favorite place in LA, that band, my confidence about driving that I never thought I would have. “Substitution” began to play. It was the first song that ever I heard by the band and I was in the mindset of thinking of where I had come from and how far I had gone.

I pulled up to the stop sign. I looked right. I looked left. I looked right again.

There was a road like this back home but this… was more than that. Cars were zipping by and every block it looked like there was a stoplight so traffic was always coming and going. I had to make a left. I waited and thought I had a window of opportunity.

I started to turn.

And then.

I looked left again.

There was no mistake, I was going to get hit, driver’s side.

Fortunately, I had enough time to swerve the slightest so my body didn’t get the impact. I waited for it and felt the hit.

This was different from the bumper-to-bumper crunch that I had heard before. This was a tin can being smashed and I was in it. I hit my head on the top part above the window, missing the glass.

The car stopped and the crunching sound was over. I was still in the car. I wasn’t bleeding. I was okay. I was okay. I was okay.

“Hey. Hey you’re okay.”

I was alone but I needed someone to tell me to pull myself together.

“Hey, you’re okay. You’re okay. You’re okay you’re okay you’re okay. You know what you need to do? You need to get to the side of the road okay. You cannot freak out yet. You can’t do it. You gotta hold on just a little bit more. Try to see if you can get to the side of the road.”

As I attempted to floor it, the car sputtered along and several drivers sped past me.

I glared at them, fuming at the fact that I was in a place where this was normal.

I managed to drive my battered car to the parking lot that was right next to the road in front of a maintenance shop.

I got out of the car and looked over to the other driver. She looked to me, her eyes thin from squinting through the cloudy sunlight.

“Excuse me? Ma’am?” the other girl said.

Ma’am? Did she just call me ma’am? I was probably younger than her.

“Ma’am, you’re going to need to get over here and call the police.”

I hadn’t done a police report before. The fender bender was just exchanging names. I didn’t know how to do a police report. I have to call the police?

I weaved through traffic and met up with the two other drivers.

“Is everybody okay?” I asked. I was weak in the knees and I am sure I looked pretty weak as well, the way that I get when I talk to people who intimidate me.

“Stand up straight, Claire,” my mom would always say.

“Well, the seatbelt was really tight on my chest,” the other girl said. “So I’m a little winded. But neither of us are bleeding.”

“My leg hurts,” the driver said, limping to walk closer to us.

“Oh my gosh, oh no… I must have not seen you… I mean… this is awful…”

“I’m going to call the police so they can file a report,” the driver said.

“Okay… okay I’m going to call my parents,” I said.

I sat on the curb and prepared for the call that no parent ever wants to receive. My crying stories aren’t always a laugh riot for my mom, but this was something that no one wants to hear.

“Hello Claire!” Mom said, her voice upbeat as normal.

There wasn’t any way to lead in with anything. I had to just go in.

“Mom, I just want to let you know that I am okay and that no one got seriously hurt, but I was in a car accident and the police are coming.”

I can’t really remember much of what I said afterwards. I was crying hard and my parents were asking detailed questions of the scene.

“Do not say you are sorry,” Mom said. “It is up to the police and the insurance company to decide who is at fault. You do not have to say you are sorry.”

I’m so used to saying sorry though. I’m sorry that I forgot the milk. I’m sorry that you didn’t make the play. I’m sorry that the rental car is totaled.

The next few hours happened, long and monotonous. I called home intermittently with more information that I received over time. The cops showed up and squared off the part of the street that had debris. They asked us if any of us were hurt and we all told them about how we felt.

“We’re going to need paramedics just to check you all out,” the main police officer said.

I sat down along the curb and balled up.

I’m relieved whenever people tell me that I am over-exaggerating or freaking out over nothing because then I can make those feelings stop.

So when I was scared and I was right, I felt hopeless.

The paramedics came and fortunately my wish was granted.

“Do I have a concussion?” I asked, hyperventilating on the curb.

“No… but don’t work yourself up like that,” said one of the firefighters.

They were silently standing in a circle around me. I felt like I was a bleating sheep and the farmers in front of me were wondering why it was making so much noise.

“Seriously, you’re messing with your internal system. Stop it,” the firefighter said.

After calming myself down to a level of mild sanity, I called my friend to come pick me up.

I once was in a fender bender with my mom on the way to high school. I was late as per usual with getting ready in the morning. It was snowing and we turned left onto the main road and we were going along and we heard a crunch. The next several months my mom had to deal with the insurance companies and the driver and going to court, which was just a pain in the neck for her and it was because of me.

The other mom calmed the girls down as I was sitting on the curb in front of the firefighters practically in spasms and she had to be there to make them feel better because of me.

When my friend came, she didn’t see the car since it had been towed already and the other driver and passenger had left with their mom. She didn’t mind driving me back but it wasn’t something anyone really wants to do. You don’t want to hear that someone you know gets in an accident. But I couldn’t think of anyone else at the time that would be available and know what to say to me. I didn’t know her then as well as I do now, but I knew that she wouldn’t blame me the way that I was blaming myself.

In her car, I was crying. This was the first time I had shown this side of myself to her. People don’t really know me until they know that side to me. It’s a gamble to show people that side but sometimes I don’t know how to control it.

She comforted me and she said something that helped me more than I think she realizes.

She said, “Oh Claire. This is just part of your charm.”

And it was just what I needed because then I could laugh at myself.

She dropped me off in front of my apartment and told me that if I needed her that she’d be there for me. I went inside and I was so happy to not be in a car. I was so happy to call my mom in a place that I knew.

I called the insurance company and then I ate Skinny Pop and watched It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. I went to bed and I could pretend that it didn’t happen, just for a little bit, while I slept.

When I woke up, the problem was still there. I needed a car.

The first time, after the fender bender, I drove into the Enterprise parking lot thinking that they were going to just notice a few scrapes. The Enterprise branch manager, a calm, professional woman with a comforting smile, met me outside and we walked around the car.

She pointed to the front and said, “Your hood is crunched.”

I crouched down and then I saw it. I’m so bad at cars that I don’t even know how a car is supposed to look.

So I got a new car after the fender bender and I started to feel better and I went to the concert and then I got into the accident and this time I showed up with nothing.

I was barely holding it together as I walked in that morning but I was fortunately in my pre-crying stage. I’m better at holding myself together when it comes to having to interact with strangers. I’m fantastic at work. I’ve never cried before, not like how I would cry during school. I came close a few times and maybe I’ve cried because of work when talking about it, but when I am on the job I am on the job.

I sat with someone – I can’t remember his title but he seemed like he was in charge of the claims or something – and he looked the report and went through a myriad of details about what I should do about getting a new car and what to do with the old car.

I told him, “It already was towed.”

He asked, “Did you use our service?”

I told him no because there wasn’t anyone on the line that late at night.

And he got frustrated.

But this isn’t the sort of frustration that I needed to hear because in that moment I thought I hadn’t made a mistake. The night before, I talked to the police officer and he gave me a number to call and I used that because I just wanted to get back to the apartment.

He explained how that now because I didn’t use the service, they had to track down the car in some random impound and how this made things more difficult. I was being scolded and this poor guy didn’t know whom he was talking to, not like my friend.

So I started to cry.

I cried in the Enterprise and Yoga pants-wearing So Cal visitors looked over at me, just wanting something to drive. Claims Guy felt bad about this so he apologized and started to speak to me in a softer, warmer voice. Then, the branch manager walked out of her office and held up a nearly empty plastic casing.

“Do you want a cupcake?”

Now, I’ve always loved cupcakes. I can’t tell you how many I ate while I was in New York. Her asking added to the bizarreness of how I was feeling already.

I laughed and I ate the cupcake while there were still tears coming down my face. Claims Guy did his best to stay focused on deliberating the information as I stuffed my face with frosting and looked like a wreck.

A young employee with a bright smile and almost cartoonish amount of energy led me to the Enterprise van so we could pick up another car from a different branch.

“It’s so nice to meet you! Where are you from?” he gushed.

The ride over was so pleasant that I temporarily forgot about everything. I was just happy gabbing about the industry and how we were so relieved that we weren’t in other parts of the country during this particular winter.

Once I was set up with the new car, I managed to get myself safely back to the apartment.

There still was enough time in the morning to go to work.

I could go. It’d help things feel normal again.

I repeated this in my head maybe fifty times. Then I stopped lying to myself.

I called my supervisor and explained the situation.

“Oh my gosh,” she said. “No, just rest and come back tomorrow – or you can take off tomorrow if you need to. Seriously, do not feel like you have to push yourself.”

For the remainder of the semester, I didn’t get into another car accident. I made sure to give any last details to the report. I made sure to come on time whenever I did the monthly check-up at Enterprise. The branch was always happy to see me.

“Hey there! It’s so good to see you!” they beamed. “It’s so nice to see you smiling. How are you?”

I’d smile and think, I totaled your car but I’m okay with this.

When I returned my car at the end of the semester, they even said they were sad to see me go.

“We always have a few students from those programs in the Oakwood that we get to know, and we’re so glad that we got to know you!”

I laughed, thinking how strange but wonderful it was for these people to be so welcoming. I have some friends that wouldn’t be nearly as accommodating.

The branch manager stood up from her desk and came to the front, holding a brownie for me. The entire branch and I laughed about it, as if it were the end of an I Love Lucy episode.

The young employee drove me and a few other students back to the Oakwood so the airport shuttle could take us to the airport. I waved goodbye to him and I don’t even think it would have been weird if we hugged.

I waited in the lobby and the shuttle finally came. I got in and sat down and started my journey to the airport. Someone else was driving.