What I will say is this; you surprised the hell out of me. I knew you’d be tough. I knew you’d be cool. I didn’t realise you would be so… you. My first clear image of you, the first glimpse I had in my head, was of a young woman in a car, covered in blood, fire behind her, screaming as she tore away from unseen attackers. I thought, then, that the scream was one of fear and relief at having escaped. I didn’t realise that it was the clearest encapsulation of who you were, a roar of animalistic rage, defiance and maybe something else, something more dangerous and terrifying than either. It took a while for the true meaning of that scream to become clear and by the time it did the fact that I was going to be strapped down in that car with you for the foreseeable future had become all too clear.
But it wasn’t supposed to be that way, was it? You were a supporting character, in place to help make the story happen, not to become the story. To be fair, I didn’t realise then that you were going to do and be exactly what you wanted and there was precious little I could enact to change that. And true to your very distinctive form, that realisation came slowly. That awful anecdote you always hear about a frog sitting in slowly heating water, not realising he’s being boiled alive until it’s too late – that was, basically, me when it came to you. I remember the moment I did finally understand. I was walking to catch up with friends at the pub, thinking about the short story I was working on, but those thoughts soon honed in on you and then I started grinning. I’m ashamed to admit it, but at the time I was listening to Ed Sheeran’s Galway Girl. Like it or not, that song always reminds me of you. As does the one that followed it that night, one that’s only a little more fitting; Rod Stewart’s Maggie May.
Except neither song is as incongruous as people might assume. Both are about being swept up against your intentions by a mysterious woman. One celebrates it, one laments it.
I doubt I’ll ever lament you coming into my life, but there are times you’ve given me pause. Time when you’ve done things that left me needing to get away from you for a bit. Times when it became evident that you don’t really have limits, that you will do what others might balk at and do it without hesitation or questioning. Maybe I sound like I’m being overdramatic, but you can be scary. Your presence isn’t always a comfortable one.
I think what fascinates and terrifies me about you is ultimately the same thing. It’s that, if I’m being totally honest, I don’t fully understand you yet. There’s so much about who you are and what you’ve been through that remains shrouded and secret. It makes me feel like I’m flying blind, like I’m irresponsible to put your story out in the world without fully comprehending the depths of it. But I want to know more, I want to understand you and the only way that will happen is if I stay in that car, holding on for dear life, smelling the blood and smoke and wondering how the hell I ended up here.
We’ve already been on a few trips together. Every time, a little more of you becomes clear. I think I know where we’re going. But I also know that my best laid plans don’t mean very much to you, just like I know that getting in that car with you changed my life forever. That’s not hyperbole. Whatever happens next, nothing will ever be the same as it was. That’s thanks to you. So in the end, I guess I’m obliged to trust you even if I’m not totally sure I should.
I suspect, although I could be wrong, that for all you are dangerous you are ultimately good. You are damaged and angry and ruthless, but you always come through. You know what it is to be abandoned and unloved, and that’s something that I think you want to protect people from. I don’t think you’re any kind of sentimental hero. I don’t think you concern yourself with the things that aren’t directly ahead of you. But where you can, you help. You save people. And while I’ve never said this before, out loud or in text, that’s what you did for me. At a time when I felt lost and defeated, you stepped on the accelerator and took me far away from that place.
We’re not always going to travel together. But what I know for sure is that every time you pull up in that car, I’ll get in. I owe you that much, and apart from anything else, I just want to see where you take me next.
Other people have already met you, but from tomorrow anyone who wants to will be able to get into the car with us. Some of them are going to jump out. That’s fair enough. To those who stay, I can’t promise anything. But I reckon it’ll be worth the ride. It sure as hell has been for me.
Writing words about writing words.