Ex-Passenger: Polished Personal Response

the impact of separation in an individual’s life.


Text used:

Perpetual Motion By Tony Hoagland


I was from sitting in the passenger seat. Long rides out of control of the speeding vehicle as it ripped down the highway; not offering a stop or even a rest, moving perpetually closer to a disaster. And yet, I stayed in that seat, speeding on the asphalt, never allowing myself to reach over and take control. 


Our relationship was destined to crash much like that car on the highway perpetually moving closer to an accident. There’s a travelling disease that kept me on the road, the disease of remembrance: reminiscing about a past no longer in existence. Reminiscing about a time when getting in the car meant driving safe and controlled down the freeway.


The past was full of fulfilled promises and lives of love until the continued success of us meant the waning of myself. You and I were inseparable – and that was precisely the problem. I would consider even for a second if I would be better off without you, and then remember the smiles and winks and hands welded together from so many years ago – and falter. There was so much I wanted to do: take control of that wheel and steer us in the right direction, but deep down I knew that it would involve kicking you out of that seat forever. 


I would remember the happiness we used to have and let it mask and bleed over our failed relationship in the present. Sore-eyed mornings where we could barely look at each other; remnants of arguments neither of us could remember should have been sirens and hazard lights telling us to end it. Failure to recognize the past was what kept me coming back for your occasional apologies and moments of affection; clinging to them as though they were gifts bestowed bountifully. I never recognized they were merely the consolations and final sputterings of a failed engine.


Perhaps I stayed with you because I was afraid of where the car would veer if I put my own foot to the gas, yet I did not seem to realize then that there was only one accelerator. If I was not in control of myself, then you were. Somehow, I was fine with that. As though I was fine with my entire life being driven by someone else. Someone who was doomed to drive it off a cliff. But it was normal; it was years of a routine I had accustomed myself to. Separation from you would mean separation from life as I had been living. 


Yet I was unable to understand then that my life being lived in the passenger seat was not my life. Soon enough the travelling disease of the past would no longer seize me and keep me tied to that seat. And when I finally stepped into the driver’s seat, I knew that I was abandoning you at the stop sign forever. There could only be one person in control of myself. I had allowed you the liberty of that long enough, and it was only from dissociation that I began to drive myself.


Driving now down the highway no longer promises to bring me closer and closer to a failure. Being in control of my own vehicle now affords me luxuries I never thought possible when you were speeding us down. But there is no destination in this perpetual driving; this vehicle will not stop to rest or pick something up. For as long as the wheels continue to turn, there is my own life within these roads.


I am from sitting in the driver’s seat. This ride will never end, as I cruise down the highway now in control of the vehicle taking me to the edge of this never-ending road. I shall stay in this seat; now in control, never letting another put their hand upon my wheel. 

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2 thoughts on “Ex-Passenger: Polished Personal Response

  1. Zaid,

    I truly love reading creative personal responses, as it gives me a chance to view the prompt through someone else’s eyes. I knew what I wanted to say about separation, but your take was completely different and intriguing. First of all, I must commend you for your imagery in describing the failing relationship. You stayed away from old fallback images and zeroed in on the smaller, more true elements, which made the piece feel much more unique and interesting. Additionally, this story did an excellent job of delving into why we as humans are reluctant to separate. The fear of the loss of something familiar and the hope that something broken can return to its former glory are both powerful and relatable motivators, and you described them both beautifully through this dissolving couple’s struggle.

    In terms of growth, I would suggest watching your GUMPS (particularly for run-on sentences and fragments), using the through-line more consistently rather than concentrating it at the beginning and end, and an overall greater focus on the question posed by the prompt. The first two are minor nit-picks, but the final note is vital to the strength of your personal. You focused very heavily on the reluctance to separate, and only at the end did you mention the impact of separation. I would have loved to see more focus on the end rather than the beginning, as it would have answered the question of the prompt more fully.

    I adore your interpretation of separation as a freeing force (in fact, that’s what I wrote my Hamlet critical on). I think it is something that we often default to hating, but being alone with oneself can be one of the most empowering states a person can be in. Thank you for this story, and for reminding us of this fact. It is too often forgotten.

    Maria 🙂

  2. Dear Maria,

    I also enjoy reading creative personal responses because I find that there is a new level of fresh interpretation and presentation of ideas that sometimes is more difficult to convey in a more critical piece. For this response, I rewrote a completely fresh piece because my original was really lacking in a lot of ways, so I felt a bit uneasy and unconfident with my work. However, I thank you for reading my work and leaving your wisdom, as I really felt a bit lost when writing on this question.
    I do agree that the grammar in this piece could definitely have been improved, as I tried to go with a style that conveyed a lot of thought with the length and structure of sentences, but in the end it just caused it to have more errors, so thank you for pointing that out and I will definitely look to remedying that. You’re also correct in saying that my piece was quite detached from the actual response to the question and especially the word “impact” in the question. We both know that a personal response is at the end of the day looking to answer a question, and I should’ve focussed more on that aspect of it.
    Thank you once again for reading my piece and leaving your comments. Honestly, I know this one has a lot of room for improvement, and your words are greatly appreciated and always welcome to help me get to where I am more comfortable with personal responses.

    Very sincerely,

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