Pretend there’s a cup of water on the dashboard,
the ambulance-driving boyfriend once said,
and you must drive so carefully, so gently,
you don’t spill a drop.
I tried—I tried so hard—after his surgery
to drive as smoothly as he had. But unexpected road
cracks, hidden bumps and train tracks—
even rumbled over so slowly—pained him.
I noted every wince crinkling his closed eyes.
I could not soften the blows enough.
Now, on the longest day of the year,
I drive my best friend home from the hospital—
a thick strip of tape over her newest incision,
her belly chartreuse with four-day-old bruises,
clutching two pillows to her middle.
Her pod of protectors wants it to stop—
we try to bump her to the surface for air,
we hover over and around her with
pills and puddings, sweet tea and toast,
books and distractions.
We are present; we are witnesses to her suffering.
But we are helpless—clueless, really—
stuck in our love.
We do not believe we are enough.
From the passenger seat she guides me
through town as I gentle the car
around divots and cracks. She directs me
to the easiest onramp. Mid-afternoon traffic
parts, affords us smooth passage.
We pull into her driveway, breathe,
look at each other across the stretch
of this long friendship.
You were perfect, she says.
You didn’t spill a drop.