I made a comment on a Facebook post earlier today which caused me to remember all the times Roberto Herrera’s driving literally drove me crazy.
The worst time was when he was still walking, and therefore, still driving. We were on our way home from somewhere and as is usual in Houston’s East End, we had to traverse several railroad tracks to get home. This one particular time, the lights were flashing, the bell was ringing, and the gates were down. I began digging my nails into his shoulder, screaming, Don’t do it! Roberto, undaunted, swerved around the gates and onto the tracks, where a train was bearing down on us, honking its horn furiously. We cleared the tracks with minutes (inches?) to spare. It was a short few blocks home to our apartment on Park Drive. However, once we got there, I couldn’t move. I literally could not move. I was paralyzed with fear. Even though it had been well known for a long time that I have an unfounded fear of freight trains, Roberto apparently didn’t comprehend the extent of it until that moment.
Another time, we were driving home late one might from a Christmas Party in Clear Lake, Texas. It was a bit of a drive back up the Gulf Freeway to our Park Drive apartment. While attempting to change lanes, a big semi honked at us. I became distraught. “Jesus Christ, Robert!” I screeched. “Didn’t you see that truck?” The poor guy. He didn’t realize there was no right answer to that question. If the answer was No, I didn’t see it, I’d be upset about that. If he answered, Yes, I did see it, I’d probably croak, “And you went ANYWAY?!”
The irony of all of this is that after Roberto’s paralysis in the fall of 2003, he had to sit in the passenger seat, riding shotgun, with his fist in his mouth, unable to do anything about what he perceived as my bad driving.
But I had driven my own mother crazy with my unfounded fear. I remember as a very young child sitting in the passenger seat of her big Buick, and right before we went over a railroad track, I became hysterical, I had to look for myself to make sure there were no oncoming trains lurking to crush us like ants. My mother, fed up with the shenanigans, finally told me, out of exasperation, “Good grief, Joni Marie, do you think I would actually drive across a track while a train is coming?” Well, no. But … Fear is a weird thing. And I have no idea how or why I have this fear of freight trains. I’ve never been in an accident with a train, never even witnessed one.