Eleven Miles

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Confession #2

Shell Out

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Normally, our failure to relate wouldn’t even be an issue. Getting along shouldn’t be a requirement for us to function. We usually do fine with our conflicts whenever they arise because we find ways to handle them. Sometimes we fake our feelings with a smile. Sometimes we simply open a fight and declare the winner when the dust settles. My favorite solution: We avoid each other when need be, and that need-be situation comes along often. But our current situation makes that difficult. At the moment, our inability to care for each other is a big freaking deal. Unlike my favorite approach for handling our tension, we can’t run from this reality. Going for the default solution would cause bigger problems.

I know there’s an origin to our simmering war, and if I consider it long enough, I’m sure I can figure out what really started it, and why it’s continued, and whether it can, or should, ever be fixed. And it’s not like I’m on a time limit to pinpoint the infection source because, frankly, Rachel and I aren’t going anywhere. We can place blame on who’s at fault for that later. For now, we have to live with the results: We’re stuck on the side of the road, Rachel’s cellphone is out of service thanks to our position in the dead zone, and not enough people are passing through to give us a lift back to town. If we ever deal with it, today’s the day. But I’m still trying to decide if it’s worth it. There’s a reason we don’t get along anymore.

I suppose for that detail to resonate, I need to explain our relationship. So where do I begin?

Relationships are like paperweights: they’re useful but heavy. Ours began as something useful. But like paperweights, relationships can look like anything, and consist of anything. This makes it hard to differentiate between a paperweight, and say, a coffee cup serving as a paperweight. Is there coffee in the cup? Will the fan blow all the papers around if someone drinks the coffee from the cup? Are they thinking about the fan when they pick up the cup? Is it still a paperweight when they treat it like a cup?

Perhaps our state of opposition appeared on the horizon the day we met, or maybe it snuck up on me, but the inevitable moment arrived when I wasn’t paying attention, and now, well, here we are stranded in the middle of nowhere, not getting along. Our friction is a condition I’ve yet to figure out because we’re into the same things—on that alone we should get along just fine. But sometimes two people with similar interests are less than kindred spirits, like the clown and the mime who went to school together, and the clown bullied him, or, more likely, the other way around. I’m pretty sure our relationship is a lot like that. Useful but heavy.

Now, I’m no psychologist. My profession does not encourage me to think or evaluate people. I’m not sure I’m qualified to understand Rachel or her buttons, or what would drive her to hate me. But I do have a brain, so it’s worth a try. I think. Either way, I’ve got to do something smart here. I’ve already blown it once today.