I’ve always envied how some people could easily during car rides no matter how bumpy or reckless the driver can be. Like last night for instance, after a long trip, I was watching my cousin's feeble attempt to stay awake even though his eyes were already drooping like a sunflower during dusk and each bump sends him nodding into oblivion, until finally Hypnos' summons have been answered and my cousin succumbed to a losing battle. Feeling sadistic, I kept watching him in his uncomfortable position, cramped up in the backseat with not much of legroom and wondered how he could doze off so easily despite my father's intermittent yet sudden brakes and jarring humps that we pass through. He did not even stir as my father navigated our silver sedan into this dangerous curve while I was clutching the passenger's seat headrest, clinging on for dear life, not feeling as immortal as I usually do which I acquired after reaching the age of 21, unlike some people, I suppose.
My mother, too, was fast asleep on the front seat, blissfully unaware (or maybe purposely ignoring) the seatbelt that digs itself painfully on her ribs every time my father makes a sharp turn, snapping her neck back and forth like Bruce Lee's infamous drunken master fighting stance and leaving a reddish diagonal mark from her shoulder down to her abdomen like a sash won after a beauty contest.
I could only shake my head in bewilderment.
Of the million car rides I already endured in this lifetime alone (minus the times during my past lives when I think that I had been once a man and the other life in which I think I had been a cow), I only slept while traveling about once or twice or maybe even thrice because I am somehow deathly afraid of sleeping while traveling or if some transportation I'm riding is somehow in motion, even if the trip would take 5 hours or more.
I simply can't stand to keep my eyes closed.
An assiduous note-taker, I take delight in every scenery that passes by while on car rides, whether it be a cow chomping down on blades of grass in the pastures or the imposing gray skyscrapers which dots every street in Makati or even the drops of rain that slid into the panes which I idly trace in the comforts of the leather seats forming shadows of dots into my skin while waiting for the light to become green. There were unpleasant car rides, though, that still plague my already fitful sleep. During those times when I was into my restless-wakefulness mode, I once saw a tangerine Honda Civic overturned from the opposite lane, swiping in its wake, a maroon van and silver Ford Lynx, leaving in its trail, bits of metal, jagged glasses, and pools of blood that promised of lives cut short and mangled, decapitated limbs. Sometimes, in my dreams, I can still hear a man's skulls connect with the pavement with a sickening crunch that sounded like potato chip cracked in half, only more sinister and lethal, as his motorcycle skidded, avoiding a stray cat and truck, leaving him in a mangled heap sans helmet (perfect location for crime processing).Car rides had provided my life with many blissful moments. Companionable silences with the driver whose name I might never quite forget but shall remain nameless for the time being. I used to watch him steer the car powerfully, so smoothly as he steered our lives in routes and highways and avenues that I can now navigate even in sleep. There are instances when I curl up on the front seat, with the radio turned up and long, sad love songs (think: Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me”) filled the interior as I stared and stared at the driver admiring how he could be so concentrated on driving and watching for signs and navigating busy lanes while somehow finding where my hands are without looking as If I am some intangible part of him.
Of course, there were times when a slam on the car door and an indefinite shrug and half-hearted wave was the last I ever hear from a person. No, not the slammed door, but the engine revving as it zooms back into the highway leaving a trail of gray smoke, which now, I realized, was the color of heartbreak and regret.
Cleaning up the remnants of a take-out dinner, after a long, long drive home. I realized why I do not sleep during car rides. It's the fear of not reaching my destination that keeps my eyes open.
I slammed the door shut. Now I can sleep.