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April 16, 2012 / Jess

Vanity Plates

Dear Army,

Because of you, I wrote this email to my soldier:

I’ve decided to start an email chain devoted entirely to the vanity plates I see. You can jump in too, of course, but I’m guessing you won’t see a lot of them – they seem to be a Rochester phenomenon. I’ve decided to do this because both vanity plates and this idea amuse me, and it’s pointless and we used to talk about silly, pointless things all the time. So here’s what’s going to happen: When I see a vanity plate, I’ll open up this email string and send you a one word message – which will be the vanity plate I saw. Feel free to comment or not, but this is happening. I think I like them because they’re like bad jokes, that move.

Army, I think that email is a pretty clear sign that you’re no good for me.

No, you’re not to blame for my corny sense of humor – I enjoyed vanity plates long before you entered my life and will long after you leave it. But seeking them out every time I drive and turning it into an activity with my soldier … that’s because of you. It’s not actually that much fun.

But I don’t cry when I play that game, and that’s why I seek out vanity plates.

Army, because of you, I can’t stop crying when I drive.

I don’t know if I start crying right as I start driving because that’s the first available moment after leaving wherever I just was that I can put down my guard.  I don’t have to pretend I’m happy when I’m alone in my car, and maybe that’s why grief overcomes me then. But it’s dangerous and inconvenient, and I’d like it to stop.

I’ve tried listening to music and audio books; I’ve tried praying. Yet my eyes fill with tears every time. I’ve missed exits and gotten on the wrong expressway; I’ve been flipped off and I’ve had to pull over to compose myself, just to start crying again as soon as I hit the gas pedal. I now carry my make-up bag and contact solution everywhere I go, so I can reset my appearance when I get to my destination. As someone who is still trying to recover from a car accident injury from almost two years ago, you make me feel even more unsafe than I already do.

I’m a civilian. You’re supposed to protect me, yet you put me in danger every day.

I don’t cry anymore when I drive. But that’s because of vanity plates. Not because of you.

(Not) love,



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