She wore her anxiety like a name badge: Hello, my name is self doubt with occasional loathing and sadness. But really, deep down, Rachel wasn’t sad, morose, or languishing; she was just anxious. Sometimes she thought her blood felt like driver ants consuming her insides like they would cattle in an African village. When she thought of that comparison she smiled a guileful smile knowing that she was a pretender. The only reason she knew of driver ants was from an Oprah Book Club book she had read in her twenties. In the car on her morning commute Rachel would think back to the moments that she felt defined her; moments that if she had made a different decision would have possibly altered her life. It was her own personal butterfly effect and she knew that it was senseless.
On this morning drive Rachel flicked at her wedding band. A steady rhythm of nerves: flick, flick, flick, her thumb against the white gold band. A physical manifestation of her inner agitation. The radio played; the morning radio show did their ridiculous voices and callers called to discuss the topic on hand. The air conditioner was on three of four and blew her hair. For a split second Rachel stopped the flicking to pretend her hair was being blown by fans at an InStyle photo shoot. In the fantasy would be her smiling face, her hair shoulder length and artfully wind blown. On her thin wrists would be Jennifer Myer bracelets, each bracelet as dainty as the women in the picture. In this fantasy she was thin, dainty, and graceful, with the kind of beauty that was accepted by other women. She had originally found popularity as a twitter personality and eventually became a regular on Jimmy Fallon, who had offered her a cameo in an upcoming movie. Another caller to the radio show breaks the fantasy and she moves on to thinking about her decisions. How many had been hers to make and in how many had she been just a silent participant?
The first time she had sex had been a misunderstanding; an ill attempt at talking dirty had led to the quickest sex ever on record. Sure, she could see how it happened. They had been making out for what seemed like hours, mostly naked and pressed against each other on a comforter that was beige with small pink roses.
“I love you,” he whispered.
“I love you too,” she whispered back.
Rachel was sure that more needed to be said.
“I wish you could be inside me,” she decided to add.
And with that her virginity was gone, him on top and pumping. Her body was scootched off the side of the bed. With the last pump she could see the digital clock; it read 3:48. Her virginity was gone in under a minute. Like any good control freak, the next logical step was to make him sit with her and read a pamphlet on teen sex and pregnancy. Which, of course, he did with no complaint, mostly because he was in love and a little sticky. Her accidental deflowering aside, sex was something that Rachel thought about often on her commute.
Now that she had recounted the accidental deflowering, the flick, flick, flick of her ring once again started and Rachel marked that experience into the her-mistake-to-make category. She had said the words that led to the act. This one was a clear mark in her column. The recalling made her smile; virginity was there to be lost and really there was no regret here.
The radio was pulling a phone prank and it made her skin crawl. The idea of intentionally making someone uncomfortable and angry made little sense. It seemed mean, but the intended victim always laughed in the end with an added, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” Flick, flick, flick went the thumb against the wedding band as the pre-recorded laugh track played behind the gag. The insistent laughter saying, “don’t be uncomfortable; it is all in good fun.”
Every morning Rachel commutes and every morning she dissects her life events. In fourth grade she cried when her paper wasn’t perfect and the teacher mentioned it to the class. In the sixth grade she gave a boy her bracelet so he would like her. Each individual act probed for a better solution. This was her commute.
The idea behind this post is that I am interested in the small amounts of time that this character spends rethinking her decisions and fantasizing about what could have been. How many small, thirty minute periods, are lost to rehashing our old life events?