On the last day of my life, before the incident that did not occur above some large body of water, I was summoned to take a driving test. This was in Alabama, back when it was populated with ex-husbands, the ghosts of ex-husbands, widowers and other men whose hands didn't fit anywhere, mine included.
That morning, in the bathroom mirror, I noticed I'd grown tame around the eyes. More troubling: someone had draped my living room furniture with sheets, preemptive.
The first part of the test was written, open-ended: "Anything I have to show for myself could fit in the trunk of my car," I wrote, and: "Anything but drowning." There were other lines along the same lines and there were some answers I couldn't be sure of -- which hand signal, which window.
I spent the lunch break looking at my reflection in the shatter-proof glass of the cashier's station. Pressed into a suit I had little to do with, I suddenly wanted to go swimming with my father. I wanted to fold my suit into a box and push it down a river and race my dead father to the opposite shore.
A man with a clipboard guided me outside for the driving portion of the test. The sun had melted religious figures onto my dashboard, and though they weren't mine, I knew I would never be able to shake them. You'll have to excuse me, said the man with a clipboard. We had to use your car -- there were a lot of people to test today. The crosses and virgins looked magical, heavy-handed. To show I had no hard feelings, I reached out to shake the gentleman's hand, but missed.
I took my place behind the wheel, he took his in the passenger's seat. When traffic is clear, he said, do whatever you think is best. Jesus had spread his liquid arms across the dash in a puddle of white, and I felt a hand on my neck. I remembered it from the mirror that morning, or from some time when women had not given up on us, but it was not a woman's hand, and it was not my own, just a memory from some long-past day.
Then there were hands everywhere: one guiding the car like a toy, one waving us toward the bridge, another pointing to the bank of the river. One to break our fall. One to take the distance out of anyone it touched.