I have just left the dentist. My face is numb to my eyeballs because of the massive amount of work my wonderful dentist has to undertake. It’s cold and clear outside, but the car is warm in the sunlight and my nose and hands begin to tingle and thaw as I start the car and flip on the heater. It feels so good not to hurt- even if it’s novocaine induced. My teeth have hurt for well over a year and I had grown accustomed to the pain. The right side of my face sags as I try and smile in the rearview mirror and slather some lipbalm on my numb lips. Such a strange sensation. It’s after noon now, and my stomach gurgles and complains, but half my face won’t cooperate- so food will wait. The nurse said the feeling would return in an hour or two.
I’ve grown accustomed to too many things that hurt. I have a lot to unlearn.
I have 20 minutes before I need to pick up the kids, and no matter how hard I try, my car is always a disaster. In grade school, I would sit at my desk idly chewing on my Ticonderoga and stare wistfully at the spotless white sneakers of the girl one desk over. She played on the playground, she ran around, and she did flips on the rings like I did- and yet her shoes were always gleaming white. No matter how hard I tried, my shoes were scuffed, the laces were frayed, and I could not keep them clean. It baffled me. My car is the same way. It still baffles me when mothers have clean cars. How does this happen?
I head to the car wash, poking and pulling on my floppy lip as I drive in silence. My radio broke months ago, and all I can get is a thin, tinny sound on a few stations. Sometimes it sucks, and sometimes I relish the quiet. Today is a quiet day.
The cold is brisk and startling. The yellow sunlight and my warm car fooled me and I forgot about the cold. My ears are full of silence and my face hangs slack, as I push the silver button to activate the giant super sucking vacuum that will swallow up at least a Jackson worth of Legos before I’m finished. Sometimes I collect them all, but not today. The constant roar of the giant vacuum is almost as good as the quiet.
We don’t even do drive-thru anymore- how can one mother and three little kids generate so much stuff? Papers, homework, socks, gloves and mittens, a rabbit fur lined hat from granddad, Bionicles, more Lego, a granola bar, a pink plastic cup, someone’s scriptures, a water bottle from the gym, junk-mail and maps shoved in the door pocket, tissues and pencils and shoes. Silently I gathered it all up, and meticulously vacuumed the mats, the seat and the beige carpeting.
The hose curls up compliantly on it’s arm when I finish, and I steer the car around the half-loop towards the yawning opening of the wash. It dawns on me that I may never have done the carwash alone. It’s usually a family affair, and looked forward to with great glee and rejoicing. Today, it is quiet. I don’t even chit-chat with the car-wash man. I just hand him my money, check the windows, and nod as he waves me forward. The little light turns red, and I slide the shift into neutral.
The car wash takes over.
Somewhere underground, I imagine giant wheels turning, and the car moved forward into the great wet tunnel. Nothing is required of me. I rest my numb chin on my hands and peer into the jets of water cascading over my hood. It’s odd. With my hand, I can feel the softness of my lip, the curve of my cheek, and even the curve of my cheekbone meeting my eye, yet I have no sensation of my own touch. Disconnect.
The giant wheels smoothly draw me deeper into the carwash, and the fluffy foam squirts and sputters over the glass as huge drum rollers spin and swirl over the sheet metal and glass. It’s oddly soothing. The white noise, the darkness, the colors and water. The being pulled forward and having nothing required of me.
I have grown accustomed to pushing, to struggle, to immense effort. I have grown accustomed to constant hurt and living with pain. I wish the carwash was five miles long and I could just sit here for an hour, numb, protected, warm and gliding through the storm.
However brief the respite, I am grateful. I am grateful for carwashes, and dentists, and novocaine. I am grateful that eventually, no matter how bad, the numbness eventually wears off, and your feelings come back. I am grateful for rainbow soap, giant vacuums, odd moments of peace and white noise.
I am grateful for the tingling that means life is returning.