It had been a long hard week already, and it was only Thursday afternoon, but I knew the pleasant part of it was going to start, because we were going to go skiing with my friends next day. Wednesday morning we had brought father to the Oncology Institute to stay there for the first time, after another very difficult night. It was a relief to me, after the previous days, when he had been feeling really terrible. He could hardly sleep because of the pain and the water in his lungs again. My mother was really stressed out after those horrible nights they had suffered together. It was a relief to all of us – maybe even to father – when his oncologist told me to bring him in the hospital and let them treat and take care of him there. She told me that they were going to clean his lungs and fix whatever they can. So my father had got into good hands, my mother was able to sleep again, and I could go on my trip more peacefully, with less worry.
After I had finished work, I visited my father at the hospital. He was very worried about me, because I couldn’t conceal from him and from mother, how close I had got to the end of my reserves. I tried to assure him that I took care of myself and everything was going to be fine, but I often didn’t beleive in it myself. It was heartbreaking to see my father so sick, and he had to worry about my health. In the hospital room the time seemed to stop. The city came to an end with everything else from the outside world. There was my father and me, the silence, the peace, nothing really mattered from before and after. Although it was only the second time I was there with him, I really liked these visits. I liked being there with him, together, talking about everything, that we hadn’t talked before. I spent more than an hour with him, then said goodbye and promised that I would take good care of myself, and I would leave everything behind to turn off and recharge myself during my trip. This was something I really needed, but I knew it was not going to happen.
From the hospital I went home, gathered my things for the trip, and I was really excited to go home to visit my mom at home. I was going to leave my car there, and my friends were going to pick me up there the next day for the trip. My mom called me in the meantime, that there is a blizzard all around the country, especially in the region where she was living. I had already changed my snow-tires earlier for the summer ones, because the weather had been very mild already, and I hadn’t wanted to go to the tire-service with the crowd at the usual time. Nobody had thought that it was going to be snowing in the middle of March, which would have been very unusual. But it was snowing. I was actually happy for this, I thought this could take me out of my ordinary life, of work, of the hospital, of my family, and something interesting was going to happen to me. Something unexpected, something surprising, something exciting, like a great adventure. I knew it wasn’t a good idea to hit the road without snow-tires with my rear-wheel-drive car in weather conditions like that, but I knew that the highways are always properly cleared, so the worst thing I could imagine was that the journey was going to be a little slower, and it was going to take two or three hours instead of the usual one hour. Big deal, I could get some fresh air and listen to some music. I needed it anyway. So I took my luggage, got into my car, and set out for my mother happily.
It was already snowing in the city as well, but it wasn’t freezing, it melted immediately, I could proceed without a problem. I reached the start of the highway, and it was still alright. When I left the city lights behind, my car started showing lower and lower outside temperatures, and it was very clear, that it was freezing outside. It was snowing persistently, but little mark had it left on the roads yet. After another few minutes I saw the rolling snow a little above the road-surface in the beam of my headlights, as the windstorm blew it across the road. I was amazed how beautiful it was, as the headlights shined through it. It was also a warning signal, that this journey was not going to be an easy one. I switched on the tempomat, in order to avoid the sudden changes in speed, and therefore to avoid slips. Then, because nobody was in front of me, I tried to carefully raise my speed a bit with the tempomat, but the car slipped immediately and started to slide across the road. It was only a moment, I released the button immediately, so the car found its balance quickly, and continued its way silently, straight ahead, nice and smooth. But this incident was more than enough to destroy my dream of an exciting adventure and a nice journey. I was shocked by it, and became extremely frightened right away. I was quivering, shaking inside and outside as well. I lost my control over the situation, I lost my balance and I lost everything that I had thought just a couple of seconds before that I had possessed. I did not possess anything. I was fallen apart and completely broken. In that very moment I realized that I shouldn’t have got into my car, I knew I made a horrible mistake, and I knew that this situation that I happened to find myself in was something I hadn’t needed, after the challenges and events of the last days, weeks, and months. I was trying to breathe nice and deep, but all I could do was gasping for breath. I was trying to keep calm, but I had no chance to control myself and keep calm. I still thought that no matter how long it was going to take, I was still going to get home somehow, sometime. But as I was proceeding forward, I saw vehicles getting denser around me. I was sorrounded by trucks, and everybody was sliding everywhere. Then we were slowing down, and getting so dense, that we stopped eventually. This was much more than I could handle. My heart was pounding like a jackhammer, and I couldn’t breathe. I thought I was going to suffocate in my car. All I could see was the endless queue of vehicles behind me and in front of me, trucks banking up high around me, they made me feel locked up and helpless.
I turned on the radio, then turned it off. Nothing could help me. My body was tingling and shivering. It was already late evening, and I just realized that I hadn’t eaten proper food since noon, and even that hadn’t been too much. I hadn’t had appetite for days. Hunger and thurst attacked me immediately, knowing that it could be hours until I can drink or eat anything. It increased my panic even more. I turned on the radio again in order to listen to the news, then turned it off again, because I couldn’t hear all the bad news anymore. I was left alone, completely. I really felt I was not able to stand it. I really feared of death, I literally thought I was not going to make it. I had always been pushing little more and more, way over my limits, but now it was all over. I just couldn’t push it any more. I was powerless and helpless, like a little baby. I saw the situation completely hopeless, it suffocated me. My mind and my body just shut down, I was frozen. I turned off the engine of the car, and prayed for the queue not to move, because driving the car even with such low speed was way too stressful and overwhelming to me. I only wanted to be still, motionless, to let time go by, and to let my mind and my body process the shock. I had a few clear moments, but then despair swept over me again with elemental force, again and again. It crossed my mind that I get out my car and cry for help. I was so desperate, that I really wanted to do it, but I knew it was impossible. Nobody would have understood… Nobody would have understood how I felt. This situation might be frightening for everyone around me, and some might have panicked, but everyone was going to be just fine. If I would have been asked for help, they would have seen a strong young guy, who should just stop bitching. They would have thought I was just a spoiled boy with his nice car, who started whining after a little traffic jam and snow. Of course. They didn’t know that I had said to my father two days ago that he was going to die. They didn’t know my father had got to the hospital for the first time in his life. They didn’t know that how much I had suffered in the last year. They didn’t know how much I had worked, how tense and helpless I felt. They didn’t know how I felt, they didn’t know nothing about me at all. They just see this stupid spoiled boy with a nice car without snow-tires. I couldn’t get out, I couldn’t ask for help, they wouldn’t have understood. I was left all by myself. Nobody would have come and help me, I was completely helpless, and I couldn’t move, I was stuck in the jam. I was over, I felt it was all over. Then all of a sudden, the queue started moving slowly. It shocked me. I winced. My legs were shaking when I was pushing the brake, my hands were shaking when I was grabbing the wheel, my chest was prickling, when I heard the engine starting. I tried to span slowly, but my whole body was shaking. I stepped on the brakes, and the car started sliding, although I was driving slower than walking. The road was so slippery with my tires, that I felt the wind could move the car without me doing anything. It was totally out of control, very scary and unbearable. We were spanning like this another couple of hundred meters, with 5-10 minute stops, hopelessly, frighteningly, with my body shaking constantly.
Then, after another half an hour I saw distant lights at the right side of the road. It was a gas station, the first rest stop after the city. I felt like this was my last hope for life, because I was not going to survive the night in this car. We were spanning another couple of meters, then I decided to gather all my energy-reserves to turn right to the hard shoulder, and make the last couple of houndred meters in a few minutes, instead of a few hours with the queue. By this time there was huge snow everywhere on the road, and on the cars as well, and it didn’t seem that snow and wind intended to stop. I turned right with my car and started driving slowly, while I was shaking from head to toe. Heat-waves were flowing through my body, and I got pins and needles in my legs. But I could make it to the station somehow, and put the car into the very first available parking space. I took my backpack, and left everything else in the car: my laptop, my iPad, my whole luggage. I didn’t care about anything. I just wanted to live. I walked towards the station, where crowds were standing waiting already. Then I realized I better check the hotel instead of the shop, if there was any accomodation at all. I found a little hotel with a restaurant behind the gas station. I thought I had to eat something but I knew I was not in a condition to be able to sit still in a crowded public place. I wasn’t able to order food, then to eat it calmly. I had no chance. All I wanted was peace, alone. The blizzard and the freezing cold cleared my head a little. I knew I still had a big challenge to accomplish. I had to rent a room, in a condition like I was. I had to talk to people, who might tell me they were full. I didn’t know how I was going to handle that. I thought I was going to collapse and die.
Fortunatelly, there was a room, the last one. The biggest and most expensive of course. I asked for a little discount. I don’t really know why, because I would have payed twice as much, I needed it so much. But eventually, I got the discount. I wasn’t able to be happy for it. All I wanted was to be in that room, all alone. I had to fill the usual form. I could hardly write, because my hands were shaking, and I had to concentrate not to faint. I filled the paper, gave the money, and set out for the room. The girl shouted after me, because I was so nervous, that I left the key on the desk. I turned back peevishly, grabbed the key, walked upstairs, opened the door, entered the room, closed the door, threw away my bag, and dropped into the bed. I was very lucky, but I couldn’t really feel the relief. I felt nothing, only the unbearable, incessant tension, with a deep feeling of emptiness. I knew I got to call my mother to tell her I won’t go home, then it was going to be all over for today. I collected all my energy reserves, called her, and told her it was snowing so I turned back home to rather spend the night at my apartment. I wouldn’t have been able tolerate her worry, despair and fuss if I had told her what had actually happened to me. It was already way too much without her. The conversation lasted longer than I had planned, and I could hardly keep my balance. She can upset me in a second.
After the call I knew I had nothing else to do, just to rest. I felt I was terribly hungry, but I didn’t had the energy and patience to go down to the restaurant or to the shop at the station. Instead, I decieded to sleep. I knew it was going to be difficult, because I was going to worry about having to sleep, or else I was going to be even more hungry. What a tricky situation! No matter how exhausted and tired I was, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to sleep, because of the nervousness inside me. I hadn’t been able to sleep properly for days, or rather for weeks, why would I have been able to do it right then? It was only half past 8, but I laid down anyway. The room was very cold. I was thinking about filling the huge bath-tub with hot water, but I didn’t have enough strength to do it, and I knew that hot water was going to make me even more tired and more hungry. So I rather tried to sleep, but I was just tossing and turning for hours. My thoughts were running wild, and I didn’t know what was going to happen to me the next day. It was about 1 am when I couldn’t handle my hunger anymore, pulled my strength and went down to the gas station to buy something to eat.
By that time the snow level reached my knees, and the wind was still blowing heavily. It blew fresh cold powder snow to my face. I tottered to the shop of the gas station, and bought some croissants, chocolate-biscuit and orange-juice. There was nothing better than these, but I knew they could save my life. While I was walking to my car, I really hoped that they broke it and stole my laptop, so that I was not going to be able to work on my trip, but I was unlucky, it was intact. I went back to my room, ate a few bits, and went back to sleep. Hours passed until I could finally fall asleep.
I woke up very early, after only a few hours of sleep. It was already daylight outside, but it was not even 8 am. I was helpless about what to do. I wanted to stay here, because I didn’t want to be driving again. I started chatting with the boys about what to do. Then I started to feel the desperate helplessness again, and my body started shaking and numbing. I had never felt like this before. My mind went fuzzy and vague, and all I could feel was the sheer panic and terror, that paralyzed me completely, and didn’t want to stop. I felt that I really couldn’t take it anymore. I thought that if life is like that, if this is part of life, then I don’t want to do it anymore. This was the deepest, strongest, heaviest fear, hell itself, unstoppable, neverending, hopeless, deep pit of hell. I really felt it was never going to end. It just grasped me, held me, gripped me stronger and stronger, until it crashes me and eats me alive. It struck me in two or three different waves, lasting for long minutes that seemed to be hours. I turned on a meditation tape on my phone, but I was not able to listen to it or anything else. I was not able to calm down. And even when I could calm down for a moment or two, it completely disappeared with the end of the tape, or rather with getting closer to the end of the tape. I tried to think. I knew only one thing: no matter how much money I have to pay to stay in the hotel, I was not going to sit in my car again in the near future. Not after last night. I couldn’t drive with these vividly horrible memories and experiences. After thinking a little more, I realized that getting back to the city is much easier than getting out of it, because on the highways there was still huge snow everywhere. That meant that the guys were not going to be able to pick me up here, and no one else was. Especially because the highway was closed from here, but it was open towards back to the city. It meant that my only chance was to get back to the city somehow, because nobody was going to come and rescue me here.
I went down to the hotel’s restaurant. I knew I was not able to be among people. I stuffed some food on my plate, then left the restaurant with the plate in my hands, when the waiter was not watching, and went back up to my room. I ate a little there, in order to have some energy. I got dressed, and went down outside, to orientate and get some information. The situation was still catastrophic. The highway was closed to both directions. There was huge amount of snow everywhere. It was freezing. The highway was full of snow as well, and there were policemen everywhere. It was really hopeless. But the wind was not blowing at least, and the sun was shining a little through the clouds. It made me a little happier. The cold air refreshed me a little. I went back to my room and tried to sleep some more. My friends were at home, knowing that the journey is impossible yet, no matter what we had planned. I couldn’t sleep of course, I was just lying idle in the bed, with my eyes open. This was the first thing since last night, that felt really good.
After a few hours of struggling and contemplating, I realized that my only option is to sit back into my car and go back to the city. Nobody is going to take me back to the city, and leaving my car here for a week was not a wise option as well. I wished I had stayed at home previous evening. I could have slept home calm and easy, idle, in my warm bed, leaving my car safe in my garage. But I needed the adventure instead… Oh God, how could I be so stupid!?
As I sat into my car, I started shaking again, and re-lived the horrors of the previous day, in a somewhat lighter version. The same feelings of being locked up inside, helpless and desperate. I started driving slowly. My nervousness didn’t dissolve a bit. I was trying to advance step by step, meter by meter. I couldn’t use the highway, because it was still closed. I had to take the main road back to the city. I could proceed a little, then I was turned off of it by the police, to the next town. The problem was that this town was closed from every direction, there was absolutely no way out. So I stopped and waited. When I saw that there were cars in my back and in front of me as well, I started to panic again, so I looked for a place to stop calmly, that was without other cars. I called my girlfriend and my brother to talk about my adventure and experiences. I was honest with my brother, I told him where I was and how I had spent the night, but I asked him not to tell my mother, because I didn’t want to listen to her shit. I waited for hours, until I could finally get out of the town in one direction.
There were no other obstacles from here, I could reach the next town, and then the city as well. In the city, there was not even the slightest sign of any snow. I might not even notice the whole thing, if I had stayed home the previous day. It was alreay 4 pm by the time I got home, more than 20 hours after I had left. After parking the car in the garage and getting in to my apartment, I was really relieved, for the first time truly. I cooked a pair of sausages, organized my stuff, washed my face, changed my clothes, ate, and waited for my friends to come and pick me up. I didn’t care about anything from then. I knew I was not going to be alone, I didn’t have to drive, I didn’t have to use my own car, I didn’t have to check the map. All I cared about was that my stomach was filled with hot meal, and I was going to sit in a warm comfortable car, and whatever was going to happen, my friends was going to take care of me.
This journey with them was a relief for me, even with the huge snow-blockages, the turnarounds, even with the constant search for the viable path, even when it took 8 hours instead of the planned 4. It didn’t matter, because I was taken care of, I didn’t have to think, decide or do anything. We arrived after midnight. I laid down in my bed in the hotel, and I knew, I was not going to do anything the next day, no skiing, nothing. Just sleeping, resting, and taking good care of me.