Slow dancing in the headlights


Eva LaBeau

I took this on that night; I tend to appreciate these types of things more when I’m emotional, strangely enough.

I cried at the D&W QuickStop at 9 p.m. I was taking you home, and I needed gas. I don’t know why, and I don’t know what prompted it, but I lost it and started crying while pulling out of the gas station lot and heading to your house. 

It was a silent cry. The kind that remains inside until somebody asks whether you’re okay. The kind that can go unnoticed if you control it.

I refused to let you see me cry, though. I turned up the music—which didn’t really help, considering it was Phoebe Bridgers—and stared straight ahead. I refused to even turn my head another degree toward you out of fear you’d notice. 

I turned up the music—which didn’t really help, considering it was Phoebe Bridgers—and stared straight ahead.

I figured I’d be fine. 

I always keep a pack of gum in my center console, but since I was driving, I couldn’t get it. So, instead, I asked you to grab it out, still staring at the road. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see you looking down at my unfinished Starbucks in the cupholder. 

You didn’t say anything. 

I asked you again, and you asked me why I needed it if I’d already had a drink. 

You already knew the answer.

I looked at you for a split second and said that it’s easier to stop myself from crying when I eat something.

You asked me why I was crying. Truthfully, I didn’t know. A lot had been going on, and I overloaded myself with responsibilities and self-assigned obligations. I shook my head and kept driving as you handed me the pack of Bubble Breeze Ice Cubes gum. 

It didn’t help that much, though. 

You told me I shouldn’t be driving like this. You were right, but I insisted that I’d be fine. It was only a few minutes to your house, anyway. 

But, as I’ve learned recently, you want what’s best for me. You know what’s best for me, oftentimes, even though I don’t like to admit it myself. 

You told me to pull into a nearby parking lot to gather my thoughts and stop crying, but you also insisted I back into the space. I asked why, but it was no use. You were set in your ways.

I did exactly what I was asked. Once in the space, you opened your door and told me to get out. 

I stared at you and asked why, my hand reaching up to take the keys out of the ignition; you said to leave the car on and go stand outside.

At that point, I was standing outside, shivering, crying, and confused. You were still in the car. You gave me a “one second” gesture, and I waited for you to explain what was going on. You connected your phone to the aux, turned the volume all the way up, and ran out to meet me in the headlights. 

All it took was the first three words of the song for me to cry more, but this time, they were tears of appreciation: “Wise men say…”

I buried my head into your shoulder. I couldn’t stand the thought of you seeing me cry, but you backed away and made me look at you. 

“I’m an ugly crier.”

I was ashamed, but we both laughed.

And so there we were, two teenagers—one crying and one consoling, both laughing and smiling all the while—slow dancing in the headlights of my car in an empty MVP parking lot at almost 10 at night. 

Something about you helped me view my problems as opportunities; insignificant in their overall effect on me in the long run, but completely usable in my life in other respects.

However this story ends, I’m more than infinitely lucky to have been able to learn from you and with you.

There’s no one else I’d rather dance in the headlights with.