i thought i would do cartwheels out of the roanoke civic center last week. i thought i'd skip, or maybe even fly, back to my car. a week later, those days are a blur. but the sensation i felt as i quietly pushed my chair back from the table, stood up, and looked over the hundreds of poor compatriots - that sensation has not left me. i thought i'd shake it as i dropped my scantron in the huge bin, my exam book in the next, and my bar exam id in the little box. i thought maybe as i passed through the doors, through the lobby where i felt as though i'd spent hours waiting for the doors to open, unable to bear standing outside in the brutal heat in my requisite court attire. maybe i expected it to suddenly be 75 and breezy in roanoke. as i walked back to my car, i tried to muster .... something. joy, fear, something. but i had nothing - i was numb. i called b as i waited for the a/c in the car to kick in, and his joy at hearing my voice, knowing i was done, far eclipsed what i was feeling.
OH MY GOD! how does it feel? does it feel awesome?
i don't really feel anything.
oh it will sink in.
and then i could hear his coworkers: is that s? is she DONE? OH MY GOD SHE'S DONE! YAY S!
and still, nothing. i stopped about five miles from the civic center, realizing that i left my victory/reward dunhills in the back of the car, thinking a celebratory smoke or two would help it sink in. it just compounded the dull throbbing in my head.
i couldn't have been more than 30 miles outside of roanoke when i first started to think i might not make it home that night. dark clouds moved in fast, and the transition was quick from sprinkles to a downpour so heavy i could barely see 10 feet in front of the car, even at 5:30 in the afternoon. i slowed to 30, as did everyone else around me, our blinkers all on, and forced my exhausted brain to focus. my knuckles were white as i tracked the progress of this monsoon on my odometer. three miles. five. five and a half. five and three quarters. ultimately, it ended up lasting for 13 miles - which at 30 miles an hour is too fucking long to be driving 30 on the interestate after just taking the bar exam and wanting nothing else than to get home to your husband and a nice glass of wine.
i think at about 11 miles i started wondering if it was going to stop. i could feel the exhaustion rising, like the heartburn i had saturday night after ethiopian food. i was afraid i was driving the length of the front, that it might last forever. i could feel the lump in my throat and knew no one would hear me if i cried, but that then i really wouldn't be able to see. and no one heard my whining - oh my god this is never going to end. what do i have to do for this to just be fucking OVER?! there was even a little yelling, a little you have GOT TO BE KIDDING ME! and then, it was over. the rain completely stopped, the evening sun was there, and i realized how tense every muscle in my body was. i took a few deep breaths, pushed in my cigarette lighter, and cracked the window. it's over. thank god.
as i said it to the empty car, quiet since 14 miles prior when i had turned off the music so i could concentrate, i didn't know what i was talking about - the storm or the Exam. the numbness, i realized, was relief. an enormous, heavy relief, the likes of which i seriously have never felt. a lawyer friend told me some time ago that this summer was going to feel a lot like banging my head against a wall for ten straight weeks. but he promised that it would stop hurting instantly and relief would immediately follow. i leaned back in my seat, turned coldplay back on and enjoyed the dunhill. and my god was i relieved.
a couple hours later, the sun was falling. the smell of cigarette smoke was pretty much cleared out of the car, since i had been driving with the windows down. on the happy side of the front, it was less than 80 degrees. i drove with the windows down, in my suit, comfortable. at some point i switched from coldplay to colin hay (after about 15 CDs that just didn't do the trick). i smelled the air. i mean, actually smelled it. i was telling b this and he said, it smelled like the South, didn't it? and oh god it did. whatever that smell is, they need to bottle it and sell it at pottery barn with little sticks (that are a mystery to me, seriously, what are those little sticks they put in the bottles with the perfume for your house - anyone?) and they should just call it "the south." and it was gorgeous. the rain had left the trees and grass a darker green, and a strange fog clung to the treetops of the mountains. the blue ridge delivered. i found myself realizing that the last time i had genuinely smelled outside was back in may, when the first magnolias bloomed and i went out of my way to walk on streets where i knew i'd find them. i spent so much time locked in my english basement, stuffing my brain, that i had no time all summer to even smell outside. that is fucked up friends. it really is.
i probably listened to the colin hay album three times, though each time i came to my anthem, waiting for my real life to begin, i'd go back and listen once or twice more. the difference was that unlike all those other mornings, i woke up that morning and suddenly something happened. something actually happened.
i decided not to treat the next three months before i start work as waiting, but as a victory lap. i'm going to soak up the time spent as an auntie extraordinaire back in michigan. i'm going to read books on the beach alone. i'm going to nap in my parents' hammock. i'm going to try like hell not to fight with them, and to not think about what a disaster the last summer i lived with them, a decade ago now, was. i'm going to remind myself that my real life has begun.
don't worry, i'll tell you all about it.