Word Count 499
Yearning for the Pilot Seat
The Navigator. A lofty name for what she always considered a loathsome job. She wanted to be the pilot. The one in control. Not the one who found the information the pilot needed. The navigator doesn’t even get to determine where the vehicle is going; only how to get there. It was a job she hadn’t asked for, yet seemed to have been stuck with since childhood. The name and face of the pilot had changed a few times over the course of her life, but she was still the one in the navigator’s seat.
That squiggly squizzle of black lines across a map, meandering like skinny little centipedes searching for a path out of the car, meant nothing to her as a child. Dots and mile-markers and route numbers—oh my! Add up those miniscule figures to determine the mileage? She was already car-sick, her stomach lurching with each acceleration and bump, her throat constricting to keep it all down. Now the muzziness in her head, the stabbing pain behind her eyes, choking on salty tears because she let her father down. She couldn’t read a map right-side-up. How was she supposed to read it when they went south and she had to turn it up-side-down?
A necessary skill. That’s why Daddy wanted her to navigate. It was a math lesson, a reading lesson, a chance to communicate without having to say much.
Maps aren’t just for driving. Maps are for life. You can’t get lost if you know where you are and where you are going.
But what if you don’t know where you are going? Or worse yet, where you are? Never a numbers person, landmarks were how she negotiated everyday life. Yank her out of the familiar landscape and she would wander aimlessly—sometimes happily so, other times fearfully—yet always, like a compass swinging north, she would be pulled to what she knew. Didn’t need a map for that. And if you didn’t go far, poor navigation skills didn’t matter.
Now, suddenly, she was in the other seat. The longed-for pilot’s position had been vacated. She was the one who had to fill it, and not just in the car. Nothing, not mile-markers or map legends and scales, or compass points, had prepared her to steer.
Looking in the half-empty closet, she mentally filled it with her own shoes and shirts. Was that his after-shave lingering in the sheets—or her imagination? Dust bunnies leered from the corners of the room where his hobbies had been housed. Maybe, she considered, I could move my sewing in here. If he doesn’t get annoyed.
The navigator looked in the mirror. Looking back at her, the pilot said loudly, “This is my house, now. The destination is my decision. So is the route.” She wasn’t used to hearing her thoughts spoken. The new voice was like a street sign in the woods.
You can’t get lost, if you know where you are, and where you are going.