By Caryn Coyle
You had to check, didn’t you? Your damn curiosity gnawed at you, so that, when you finally remembered to check (because, obviously, you’ve thought of this often, but at the wrong time) you opened the glove compartment and now you can’t think about anything else.
The insurance card you store there with the registration says your policy expired almost two months ago! Two months! Holy moly, what are you going to do?
Why hadn’t you gotten an invoice? You pay your car insurance in two lump sums every half a year, and you remember paying for it – the coverage that has expired – over nine months ago. You do not recall ever paying the insurance bill again for the coverage you need now to drive.
You are driving illegally. The thought is scary. What will the insurance company do? They may charge you tons and tons of money to reinstate your coverage. What will the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles do? Suspend your registration? Forbid you to drive until you can prove you are covered? Charge you an astronomical penalty fee? You are just under two months late renewing your coverage. That is going to cost a lot.
But you are here. You’ve found a decent parking spot, the only one left by the picnic area. Since it is still a lovely day, you put the expired insurance card back in the glove compartment and open your car door.
The path is about two miles, just the right length for you; enough exercise that you enjoy walking it. You were thrilled to find this park. It has two stone pillars at the entrance to the asphalt path. There are several trials off the main pathway, but you do not take any. You are pushing yourself not to think about the lapse in your insurance coverage.
You do not want to call the insurance company while you are walking, either. You try to enjoy the slopes of land on either side of you. The tall pine trees and the others that have clouds of green or sometimes pink, on their branches. It is spring. Finally and has been for about a month, but the weather has not felt like it. It is cool today, too. You wear a sweatshirt under your light winter coat. It is comfortable. You actually enjoy a cooler, overcast day for walking. Heat and extreme cold bother you. You have found such solace in the blue of the Atlantic when you walk on the beaches here. But today, today is a quick and easy two miles amongst pine trees, boulders and a pair of deep blue ponds. It isn’t too crowded today. It is a weekday. That is why.
On the weekend, folks park their cars along the drive to the trails. The hockey rink’s parking lot also fills up and a small bridge to the shopping center beyond it, with lots more parking, get used up, too. The last time you walked this path, you had to park there. It was the first really warm, beautiful day of the year and everyone had the same idea that you had.
But today, oh you can’t enjoy the walk; the clear, the cloudless sky, the crisp air, soft wind. Everything is starting to come back to life and you are trying to push thoughts of the repercussions of your insurance lapse from your mind.
At the top of the asphalt loop, you can see the lovely, tiny beach for the first of the ponds. A dog and her walker greet you. You reach down, let the dog sniff your hand and try to smile. You love dogs. Always have.
You try not to think of your dog, whom you had to put to sleep. You had another dog before her, also put to sleep eight months before you adopted your last dog. You don’t think you can go through the loss of another dog. It is too painful.
Back at the park’s entrance, the dark, wooden walls of the rest rooms with the green steel roof remind you of an expensive amusement park. The building looks well maintained, attractive. You use the rest room, surprised that the insurance situation has made you sick to your stomach. You will call the company when you get home. You cannot do it while you drive; carefully, uninsured. You are not calm enough.
You are aware of everything as you pull back onto the highway; the cars that surround you, their speeds, the ones exiting or entering the spaces behind and in front of you. Route one, on which you are driving, is a string of stores and services on both sides where vehicles enter and leave constantly.
A car moves so swiftly into your lane, you gasp. Hey! As if by instinct, you switch lanes before he can hit you. What the hell? You swing into the lane he left to cut you off, relieved that no one else is in this lane.
You must have been in the other driver’s blind spot. He doesn’t even acknowledge you. He faces the windshield, one arm out, hand raised so you can see it above the hood of his car. His hand is open as though he is trying to catch the breeze.
What a close call! Really close. And you are not insured.
At home, with your insurance card in hand, you call the company’s toll free number. The automatic responses guide you to a conclusion that you do not expect: your policy is paid in full!
Shocked, you stay on the line so you can talk to someone. Could it really be true? Why can’t you remember? But what relief! The Registry of Motor Vehicles will not penalize you. Your credit score will not decline.
According to the insurance company’s representative, you paid in full three months ago. You do not remember paying for it. You do remember gathering both the expired and the new insurance cards and throwing out the one you thought was outdated. Now, you realize, you threw the wrong one out.
Why can’t you remember?
Your mother died of dementia last year. You have worried that you will develop it, too. Is this insurance nightmare a sign?
You try to shake it off. Forget about it. You remember your mother grabbed the newspaper once, not to read it, to check the date. Looking up from the paper, she declared, “It’s my birthday!”
Your mother used to repeat herself, constantly. She would ask you if the waitress had taken the order you and she had given for the many, many meals you shared with her in restaurants. She enjoyed dining out whenever you could drive the four hours to see her in her assisted living facility. She lived there for seven years. Each time you saw her, she had faded more.
Your mother would protest that she knew who you were. But she did not recognize you. For those seven years she could no longer live on her own, she never said your name. Your mother always acted as though you were an acquaintance, kindly paying her a visit.
The night of your insurance lapse fiasco, you climb into bed and reach for your pill box. You take a prescription each night for cholesterol. You also take one each morning for your thyroid.
You open the lever of the tiny box marked with an “T” for Thursday. There are two pills inside! You forgot to open the box to take your thyroid pill that morning.
For more than an hour, you lie there, unable to sleep.
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Caryn Coyle is an editor at the Baltimore based literary journal, LOCH RAVEN REVIEW and her fiction has appeared in more than three dozen literary publications. She has won awards for her fiction from the Maryland Writer’s Association, the New Millennium, DELMARVA REVIEW, the Missouri Writer’s Guild, and Pennsylvania’s Hidden River Arts.
She lives in Massachusetts.