I don’t know! That is all I can think in response to the interrogation in my mind. I want to give up but I don’t know how to do that.
“What if no one lets us over?” I ask Peter. More questions unload and then I remember an exchange Peter and I shared that morning when I’d knocked over my purse on the floor of the van and its contents had spilled. As I crouched down feeling blindly around I wondered what he would do in such a situation, and asked him as much.
“Well, unfortunately,” he said with a sigh, “I’ll have to ask someone to help me out.”
“And what if there’s no one to help?” I challenged.
“I wait,” he said. “I wait for someone to help.”
He appeared thoughtful, as though pondering a hypothetical universe where there’s no one to help out, no love or compassion or goodness at all, a universe I felt I lived in since my dad was taken away.
“What if you’re all alone and there’s nothing you can do and there’s really no one to help you? There’s no one in the world. It’s just you.”
I expected Peter to chuckle at this bleak world I was insisting upon but he took me seriously. “Well,” he says. “Then that’s it. Then I just let it be. I just leave it as it is. But that never happens. There’s always someone to help eventually, and hopefully I can help them somehow, too.”
We still have a little stretch of road remaining. Desperate, I stick my arm out and wave it around, indicating an urgency to change lanes. The driver approaching on our right immediately slows down, letting us in without hesitation. I wonder why I didn’t do that before. It was so easy. A little pathetic-looking maybe, but who cares?
Within seconds we’re gliding down the off ramp. I see the giant McDonald's “M” in the near distance, a promise of icy chemical beverages.
“Thank god,” I say. “I didn’t think we’d make it.”
“Yeah,” Peter says, his laid-back tone restored. “It can get intense out here.”
Peter and I have kept in touch regularly since that day. Recently, for the first time, we chatted over Skype. I’m always disoriented when Skyping with someone for the first time. Here we are thousands of miles apart from each other and we’re looking into one another’s bedrooms, our respective realities pushed up against one another by virtue of a computer screen. I am distracted by the books in the background, the crumpled tissue on the nightstand, the bed so tidy except for the sheet hanging low on one side, inches past the comforter. It takes me a few moments to stop leering at Peter’s surroundings and just talk.
It is on Skype that Peter shows me how he brushes his teeth—with a device that clamps onto his wrist. It’s no more sophisticated than a plastic cup holder. He shows me how he signs a check with his teeth, his signature exactly the same as it was when he was able to write manually, “which goes to show you it’s all in your brain,” he says.