the bridge is up

It's 6:10 pm. I am in the car with my two boys heading home from a play date.

Chicken is happily looking at a picture book.

Buster is snoring lightly, wheezing a little on the exhale.

I am listening to my audiobook.

Low, golden evening light shimmers through the trees that wave in the warm breeze off the water. I take the curves easily, slowly. The humming vibration of the engine has soothed the savage beasts in my backseat. Life is good. All is well.

I smile.

We come to the top of the hill, the one right before the bridge.

Dear God...

No.

NO.

THE BRIDGE IS UP.

The only way this fragile peace survives is if the car keeps moving. And from the sea of brake lights stretching out in front of me, it's looking like the 3 of us are going to be trapped in a late-model Japanese-sedan-shaped screaming hell canister for at least 7-10 minutes.

I stomp on the brakes and slow to near-idle speed. The guy behind me honks. The guy behind him honks. Fuck all y'all. I have to keep this car in motion no matter what it takes. I crawl toward the minivan stopped in front of me.

This move only buys me about 30 seconds.

Even though we're still moving, I can hear the sweet silence starting to crack. Buster grunts and shifts. Chicken throws his book into the middle seat.

"Oh wow, Chicken! The bridge is up!" I shriek in hysterical delight! "Isn't that AWESOME!" 

"All done! (pant pant) All done car seat!" The first words out of his mouth are already at 100% whine.

"I know baby. I know you're done with the car seat. We have to wait for the bridge to go back down and then we will be home super fast, okay?"

"NO NO NO!" he screams. Buster startles - I can hear his arms and legs flap against the padded walls of his car seat. "WAAAAAAH!" I reach behind my seat to joggle Buster's seat. I start to sweat.

Oh thank God, the bridge is starting to go down. At glacier speed.

I'm about 10 feet behind the minivan. I decide to do the old brake-pump. It's not MOVING-moving, but the car is shuddering and jolting, and generally looking like it's having a seizure, and it's better than nothing, right?

WRONG.

"WAH! WAH! WAH" Buster has shifted to the speedbag equivalent of baby cries. 

"ALL DONE! GET OUT! ALL DONE! GET OUT!" Chicken's voice is a knife of unwavering focus and intensity, stabbing me in the eye over and over again. He is 100% committed. Like if Marlon Brando were preparing for the role of "Whiniest Child on Earth," he'd want to be in my car right now.

I continue to pump the brakes. The car looks like it's hiccuping. Or being shot with a machine gun in a Schwarzenegger flick.

I make a horrible mistake. I look out the window into the car next to me. A woman is in the driver's seat. Young, cute, professional. Alone. She is looking at me with a furrowed brow like, "who is that unbalanced woman pumping her brakes? Should she have children in her car?"

I roll down my window and say, "Bitch, I didn't come here to make friends. EYES FORWARD."

Actually I just meet her eyes and let her see my despair. "I used to be like you," I mind-tell her. "Those days are gone. Please... please... help me?"

She looks away. She picks up her cell phone. Probably to call her gynecologist and make an appointment to be sterilized. She looks smart like that.

Finally, the minivan in front of me starts moving. As soon as the car begins to roll forward, Buster falls silent. Like someone hit a mute button. Seriously, that's all it takes. I can feel my heart rate begin to slow.

"CHICKEN! The bridge is down! We're going home to have dinner!" I call into the backseat. It's over. 

A small voice calls back to me.

"Mo mo bridge?" Oh shit. 

"Oh baby, no, we're done with the bridge now. Time to say good-bye to the bridge!" 

"MO MO BRIIIIIIIDGE! BRIDGE BACK! BRIDGE BACK! BRIDGE BACK!"

"WAAAAAAAH!"

If we hit any red lights on our way home, you'll hear about it on the evening news.

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