by Hayley Grgurich
Screaming in cars is my religion.
It wasn’t always. I used to be Catholic, but when my family moved to Texas just before my sophomore year of high school, we found half the Catholic services were in Spanish and the other half interfered with the precious few Steelers games televised on the local channels so, clearly God had other plans for us.
My parents dealt with the situation by becoming Methodist. It looks just like Catholicism if you squint. I found a suitable substitute in screaming.
Like most inventions, the car scream was born of necessity. My best friend Emily and I were tethered to a town that we didn’t really know what to do with, we had high school to finish before the setting became negotiable and our main source of entertainment was picking one another up to drive around the Loop.
It was on one of those drives that Emily and I happened to both be pissed. I don’t remember the specifics of the injustices chafing us, but we had exhausted the usual solutions: complaining to each other (check), maxing out the volume on any of three Red Hot Chili Peppers CDs Emily had in the car (check), pouring Diet Cherry Limeades on our problems (check) and complaining some more. Because of this, we were both worked into a pretty good froth by the time we hit the part of the drive that passed the junior high.
“Pull in,” I said to her.
“I’ve got an idea. Just pull around to the parking lot.”
It was late enough that band practice had long ago wrapped up and it was just us surrounded by darkened baseball fields and the hum of heat and cicadas.
“Now what?” she asked.
She looked at me a second, and then, “OK.” Just like that she was on board. Like I said,
“So we just scream?” Emily asked.
“Yeah, I think so,” I said. “I don’t know. I’m just making this up. But we should probably roll up the windows first.”
“Good call.” Emily pressed the button and sealed us in. “I dedicate this scream to this stupid day,” she said.
“I dedicate this scream to this stupid year,” I said. “On three: One, two, three!”
Then the two of us took giant breaths and screamed. We screamed loud and long until it felt like we would drown if we kept at it one second more. When the sound died, we turned to each other, gasping and red-faced, and laughed. It was heady, liberating and altogether wonderful. We started calling each other late at night. “Hey, I’m in your neighborhood. Mind if I come by and pick you up for a scream?” We’d leave messages in each other’s inboxes saying, “I could really go for a scream today.”
It was screaming in cars with Emily that got me through a bout of regimented eating coupled with compulsive exercise that left me a skeletal 90 pounds my sophomore year and an anxiety-based reversal binge that ballooned me to 170 as a junior. Screaming with Emily made it OK that people seemed afraid to talk to me at my thinnest, or when they did, were sometimes doing it on a dare. It made it OK that I stopped running—one of my favorite things—because of my weight. It made it OK that my sister was at college instead of being the co-new kid with me. It made it OK that East Texans call all male teachers “Coach” whether or not they coach anything. It made it OK that my mom chaperoned Prom.
It’s been years since Emily and I have lived within 100 miles of each other and we fell out of practice with our screams when I left for college without my car. Still, screaming in cars remains the craziest, most reliably true way I know how to shake something that needs to be shaken and for that, it has my undying faith.
But it isn’t for everyone. Spirituality isn’t one thing with one shape that waits in the same place for each of us to find it. If you find something that works for you—if it makes you feel like someone plugged you in and you are the embodiment of a perfect, sparking current of potential, it’s what you should be doing for your spirit. As long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, if it’s what you need to reset, it need not be neat, organized, kosher, direct from On-High or even recognized beyond you and your Best Friend and your joint belief in it. Chances are you’ll try a lot of other things before you find it—ignoring your spirit, convincing yourself you’re too busy or liberal or manly or non-conformist or self-assured to worry about ”what’s going on with me today?”—and when those things don’t work, maybe you’ll be so frustrated you could just scream. Do that.
editor’s note: This essay appeared in an earlier edition of Renew magazine.