I dragged hard on my smoke like it was saving my life instead of taking it, listening to the crackling death throes of the paper and tobacco as they were swallowed alive by the advancing flames on the fast-shrinking cancer stick. I sat on the toilet seat, leaning against the vanity to my left the way a sack of sawdust propped against the dusty planks of a barn leans — heavy, dead weight. I was staring into the distance right in front of my nose and unaware of my surroundings. The last couple of days haven’t been pleasant for me, I pondered, and I realized I was tired.
I felt funny for a while; I wasn’t really sure how long. It might’ve started when I got back from Puerto Rico, but maybe not. A slight post-nasal-drip kind of feeling. As of Wednesday night, I wasn’t feeling well, and I was afraid that I might be well on my way to another bout of cold or flu symptoms. By Thursday morning I had a full-on runny nose and itchy, watery eyes. Allergies, I told myself, nothing more. The antihistamine I’d popped Wednesday night helped me sleep if nothing else, but I didn’t feel any better or worse in the morning. I was grateful for that.
Being sick for the fourth time since the calendar rolled to 2007 excites me about as much as Amish porn. Amish porn, that’s funny. I borrowed that one from a Sports Illustrated writer. I forget who now.
I dragged that cigarette hard enough to make it beg for mercy again and continued staring at those yellow, nicotine-crusted walls. Gotta wash ’em soon, I reprimanded myself.
The drive home had been hell. For me, it was literally hell. Hot, choked with humidity and smog, traffic moving like molasses in winter. I sat through the usual bout of congestion on the road trying to get home, but then I made a few disastrous decisions that left me deeper and deeper in the soup the farther along I went. First, I cut off of my usual side-road route and figured sticking to the main road would be faster. After about a 10 minute wait to get through the juncture of IL Rts. 43 and 176, I continued north behind a glut of cars all doing exactly 5 miles an hour UNDER the 35 mph speed limit. When I finally broke free from that mess, I moved north much faster, and came to the junction of routes 137 and 43.
Usually I take 137 west and head north again on another side road. But the line of traffic to turn left on 137 probably would have left me sitting at that intersection through 2 cycles of the light. I opted to continue north on 43.
I got less than a mile farther before traffic stopped.
43 is notorious for not being able to handle the traffic. Abbott Laboratories is surrounded, at their main campus, by a nice, 3-lane wide stretch, but at the next intersection north, it bottlenecks down to two lanes again. I creeped and crawled forward, inchworming along, tempted to turn around against oncoming traffic, but knowing better. I opted, for some stupid reason I can’t explain to this day, not to turn around when I had the chance. I assumed, more stupidly, that the authorities would have the problem cleared soon and I’d be happily on my way.
I sat there for another 45 minutes before going far enough ahead to see the problem: a stalled construction truck, partially blocking the right lane. The cop that was standing around picking his nose and ass, looking stupid and arrogant, was blocking the rest of it. So the two lanes were compressed to one at the height of rush hour.
It took me an hour and twenty minutes to make a drive that normally, in traffic, takes 40 or 45 minutes.
I was so wound up by the time I got home I was spitting venom, blood chemistry jacked through the roof, and wanting more than anything in life itself to hit something, hard. My poor, stout-hearted wife stood and listened to me bitch, only uttering sympathies, while I shook with frustration and pent fury.
I tell myself I don’t have road rage because I don’t slam my car into anyone, I don’t pull out a crow bar and bash anyone’s vehicle or head, I don’t whip out a 9mm weapon and send someone to their Maker. All I do is get wound up a bit and vent through my considerable mouth. I yell, scream, and occasionally, I bang things — steering wheel, bed, couch — whatever’s handy. But I don’t have road rage. The road enrages me, but I don’t have road rage.
That’s not really true. The road has nothing to do with it; it’s the morons ON the road that piss me off.
I sucked on that cigarette, drinking the life out of it as a spider drains a fly. The filter flashed suddenly and burned the holy shit out of my lips and fingers where I held it. I cursed loudly through clenched teeth and ran the hot fiberglass under cold water, then dropped it into the dirty, ash-crusted salad dressing jar serving as a butt-kit.
Bad day. Bad couple of days if you count the cold, hay-fever, whatever the hell it is.
I stood up to leave the bathroom, dropping the toilet lid down. Toilet does double-duty. We smoke in the bathroom to keep the smoke out of the kids’ faces. That makes for cruddy, yellow walls and no place to sit in an apartment-sized bathroom, so the toilet is a place to drop your ass no matter the reason you’re there. Problem is, the lid is convex, so you can’t put a caboose as big as mine on it or it’ll crack. So we sit there on the pot whether we’re using it or not. I was staring at the water just before the lid closed and I swear to God the toilet winked it’s hole-eye at me.
Bad day. Real bad.
So I lifted that lid and sat back down, leaning against the vanity just to my left the way a sack of sawdust propped against the dusty planks of a barn leans — heavy, dead weight. I ripped another victim from the pack of Ultra-Lights and sparked it, dragging hard and tired on that S.O.B. like it was the last one on earth.