• Windshield Wipers

    By Bizzy Coy

    Originally performed January 28, 2024 at Yarnslingers in Callicoon, NY
  • I am driving through the Pennsylvania backwoods. The first big winter storm has come and gone. The pavement is clear thanks to plows and rock salt and sand and finally, thankfully, sun. Sun, in January?! I feel grateful.


    I am the only one on the road. Exactly how I prefer it. I like my solitude as I twist past small houses bundled in woolen sweaters of snow, their chimneys puffing like pipes.


    A car appears close behind me. I feel nervous. Whenever someone is on my tail I assume they’re mad at me. I must be going too slow. I don’t like these thoughts. I want them to think I’m a good driver. I want them to like me. Even love me. Is that too much to ask?


    I no longer see the charming sights of my quiet country drive. All I see is the other car. My eyes are drawn to the rearview mirror. What do they think of my driving? My self worth hinges on their opinion. Won’t they give me a sign??


    Then, something strange. I notice their windshield wipers are on. Full tilt. Tick-tick tick-tick tick-tick. The setting for apocalyptic rainstorms. The “in case of emergency” wipers. As I call them, “the hypnotizers.”


    But there is no rain, no snow, no ice. The sun is squint-worthy. Are windshield wipers the sign I asked for? If so, what does it mean? Do I have a flat tire? Am I in danger? Can the other driver see a murderer in my backseat, ready to strike?


    Surely it’s a mistake. Surely the driver will turn off their wipers at some point. But no. They keep on going. Tick-tick. Tick-tick. Tick-tick. Maybe it is a young driver or an unfamiliar vehicle. That happens. It’s happened to me. Cars are tricky. I once forgot which pedal was the gas and which was the brake, and I crunched into an innocent parked car. Mistakes happen. Who am I to judge? Am I not hoping the other driver will look upon me with empathy? Shouldn’t I return the courtesy?


    I promise I am keeping my eyes on the road as much as I possibly can, but the intrigue is irresistible. I collect details. The driver is a woman. Alone. She is not spraying any washer fluid. Not swerving. Not shouting on the phone, not eating and drinking, not quieting a screaming baby. Simply driving. Calm, serene. Unfazed.


    What kind of woman is she? Where is she going? From whence has she come?


    I am obsessed. What is wrong with me? Can’t I let someone drive in peace without needing to know their whole deal? Is this further evidence of my already obvious emotional issues?


    I have a brilliant idea. I will screech to a stop, forcing her to rear end me. She will get out of the car and answer all my burning questions. My foot hovers over the pedal. Wait. Is that the gas, or the brake? It doesn’t matter. Leave it alone. Just drive. Just drive!


    But I can’t just drive. I need to know. I need things to make sense in this world, even if I have to invent the meaning myself.


    I write the story of her in my head. Maybe when she was young she was bullied. Maybe the other girls wouldn’t let her jump rope with them. Maybe her dear grandfather picked her up after school and he said “How was your day, darlin’?” and she couldn’t help but cry.


    “Oh, darlin’,” he said. “Let me wipe away those tears.”


    He flicked on the windshield wipers, and she looked over at him, baffled, and he said “Huh, they must not be working. She’s still crying. I’ll turn them all the way up.”


    And he did, and they squeaked across the dry windshield, with the fast steady pace of the mean girls who wouldn’t let her double dutch.


    She smiled, and then she giggled, because it was a ridiculously silly joke, but it worked. She never forgot his kindness, his million simple kindnesses, and even now, as she drives to her grandfather’s funeral, she remembers, and she lets the tears flow free, honoring the memory of a gentle man, with his tender eyes and his steady heartbeat, tick-tick, tick-tick, tick-tick.


    Maybe windshield wipers are her defense against the inescapable precipitations of love and loss. Maybe, when she does this, she does not care at all what the other drivers on the road may think. Maybe, there, she has something to teach me.


    We stop at an intersection. I go one way. She goes the other. I turn on my wipers. A salute to our shared humanity. Our unknowable depths. The tender eyes we all deserve to see, looking back at us in the rearview mirror of life. Tick-tick. Tick-tick. Tick-tick.