Drive Away

When I was 9 or 10, I had a nightmare every week for a year. 

I’m driving in fog. I can only see the first white dash on the road ahead. I’ve gone too far. I see a driveway on the left. I take it. 

There’s a security light on a white barn to the right. There’s a white house to the left with a big porch. White spindle railing, white spindle posts, a screen door with a spring to slam it shut. Windows on either side of the door glow yellow.

I want to ask how far I’ve gone past my destination. I park, walk through wet grass, up two steps and across the porch to the door. I’m in sandals. Grass trimmings stick to my feet. I hate that.

An woman answers. She’s in an over-the-neck apron. She’s stooped. Her hair’s in a bun, grey hairs straggling free. An old man sits at the table with his back to us. He’s in old dungarees with suspenders over a faded shirt. The table, with a red checked cloth, fills the kitchen.

The old woman tells me to go back the way I’d come and invites me in for coffee. Coffee sounds good. There’s an old percolator on the stove. I say yes and thank you. She holds the door open for me. It smells funny. The old man turns around and looks at me. He has brilliant blue eyes.

I wake up screaming. It stopped when I entered 4th grade like a switch got flipped. I remember the anxiety of bedtime and the relief dreamlessness.

Fast forward from 1969 to 1980.

My husband needs me to pick him up after six weeks cleaning up hazardous waste in the back row of nowhere.

Me and my jeep head east on SR 224. It is abysmally foggy; I have to watch for the next white line to tell me I’m on the right side of the road. 

I’m having a hard time gauging distance, and I’m not good at odometer math. Or any math. There should be farm houses with security lights, but I can’t see them. The fog ate the light. Eventually I realize I’ve come too far. I don’t dare pull a u-turn; no visibility. Finally the fog lifts enough to show me a driveway on the left.

I pull into a lighted bubble of fog. White barn, security light casting a halo over the yard and the house to the left. It has a nice porch with white spindle posts. I see folks are still up, so I decide to ask for directions. I get a strong sense of deja vu; I probably have been here before. My daddy took me along when he sheared sheep for a living. I’ve been on a lot of Ohio farms. Grass clippings stick to my feet like wet bugs.

I knock. An old woman answers. I ask directions. She says to go back the way I came. She offers me coffee. I see the old man’s back, his suspenders, his crumpled shirt inching out of the back of his jeans. I see the checkered cloth, the percolator. It smells funny.

I remember. 

I decline the coffee. I walk normally to my Jeep. I slowly pull on around the drive and onto 224, back the way I came. When the tires roll onto the asphalt, I ram through all the gears and tear into the fog at a speed not safe for driving conditions.

In minutes I enter a crystal clear night. My husband is pissed it took me over two hours to make a 15 minute drive. 

I explain the fog. 

He says, “What fog?” He thinks I’m insane. He’s been star gazing and cussing me. He would have noticed fog (this marriage did not last).

A few days later, I drive that same stretch of 224 in daylight. There’s no house with a spindle porch, a horseshoe driveway and a white barn anywhere on the north side of SR 224 between Tiffin and Findlay, Ohio.

I can make this stuff up, but I didn’t.

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