I’ve already gone blind while driving my parents to a sandwich shop. It couldn’t possibly get any worse.
I’ve learned a few things in my life, and most of them are about statements like that. Most of what I’ve learned about statements like that is this: do not make them. Like, do not not not ever ever ever make them.
I may not know much about the universe, except that most of it doesn’t make sense (like the fact that there are apparently like ten bagillion million earths out there, and the fact that the Internet finds the need to constantly tell me about that, as if I don’t have enough to worry about with two cats with severe separation anxiety and the fact that Kimye is reproducing and the fact that I can’t figure out how to keep my coffee pot clean), but if anything about the universe would make sense, it’s that somewhere, on this earth and on all ten bagillion million others, there’s some force that takes note of every single time someone says or even thinks that nothing could possibly get worse and is like, Challenge accepted. Here’s a white shirt, a malfunctioning lid, and a boiling hot venti cinnamon dolce latte. Oh, and some rickety-ass stairs. You’re welcome.
Except, in my case, the universe didn’t give me a fancy coffee. The universe gave me a Diet Coke (which would later give me kidney stones), a delicious sandwich (okay, that part was nice), two suddenly malfunctioning eyes (which, thankfully, didn’t impede my enjoyment of the aforementioned delicious sandwich), and a shady-looking (literally, since I couldn’t see and all) man sitting in the corner of the restaurant, where he was apparently thinking to himself, You know what? This lovely Saturday afternoon is lovely and all, but what everyone really needs right now is AN IMPROMPTU BONGO JAM SESSION.
Listen: I’ll admit, it’s pretty terrifying to be driving down a busy street with your parents in the car and all of a sudden stop being able to see, since seeing is pretty necessary to driving and all (if you’re reading this and studying for your learner’s permit, I’m pretty sure that’s a question, and I’ve just given you the answer. You’re welcome). But nothing, perhaps nothing, is more terrifying than being blinded in a restaurant in which a man who you can’t even see has just decided that an impromptu bongo jam session is a good idea. Because listen, impromptu bongo jam sessions are never a good idea, unless you’re a student at Sarah Lawrence College sitting on the lawn smoking a Bidi and drinking a Diet Snapple Trop-A-Rocka Tea and Vodka, in which case it’s probably a requirement for your performance art class. But that’s the only situation in which an impromptu bongo jam session is appropriate. Otherwise, you could be subjecting a temporarily blinded woman and her poor, innocent parents, who have recently been to a poetry reading she gave and honestly have therefore been through more than enough, to your unexpected, unrequested bongo playing when they just want to eat their delicious sandwiches and figure out why one of them has all the sudden gone blind in peace.
The whole thing was so insane and inhumane that at first I thought this was perhaps just something that was going to happen to me now, another unexpected consequence of taking an apparently not-so-fantastic medication: that I was the only one hearing bongos, just like I had, a few days before, suddenly lost my ability to traverse stairs in a manner appropriate to an adult woman, and maybe soon I would also start involuntarily giving snaps and wearing berets. Then my mother said oh dear and I knew this was a much more dire situation than that.
I leaned over towards where the blur I now saw instead of her was sitting. “Is that guy playing the bongos?”
“Yes, yes he is.”
“No, I mean, seriously. He’s seriously playing the bongos.”
“Oh yes. He’s playing the bongos. I thought that was just maybe part of the restaurant?”
“Why would I take my parents to a restaurant where someone played bongos?”
“I don’t know, you went to Sarah Lawrence. Isn’t that a class requirement?”
She had me there, and so I looked around — or tried to look around — which is when I realized why being blinded in a restaurant when someone starts an impromptu bongo jam session is worse than being blinded while driving a car: you can’t see the fastest way out. And even if you already know the fastest way out, there could be things like chairs and feet and small children standing between you and the closest available exit, and if you tripped over any of those things and/or people, it’d probably make a lot of noise and ruin any hope you had of making a speedy escape unnoticed by the bongo player, and that could be ten billion kinds of dangerous because if there’s one kind of person you don’t want to upset, it’s the kind of person who thinks it’s a good idea to sit in a random corner and randomly take out his bongos and then actually play them.
So my parents and I sat there, attempting to make small talk about how delicious our sandwiches were, while the bongo player finished his jam. We clapped politely afterwards because we are Southern and it seemed like the right thing to do. I think my mother even blessed his heart. And we ate our sandwiches peacefully until my mother leaned over and said, Oh God. He’s getting out his guitar. We have to get out of here, fast.
And that was the day I knew beyond question that some things in my life were going to have to change.