I never saw it coming. I never thought I would be that person.
The deer shouldn’t even have been there, that far away from its home in the fields and the woods. I’d seen them grazing before, but I didn’t think they would actually come on the road. But I thought wrong.
This deer did come, bounding across the highway where people drove anywhere from 65-85 miles, mostly depending on age. I had only been driving a year, so the excitement of driving was still in me, but I followed the rules.
I didn’t even eat most meat, so hitting the deer was not even a thought in my surprised mind. I slammed on my breaks and swerved to avoid it, causing my car to spin out. The driver who had been a little ways behind me caught the read end of my car, sending it flying through the air, before landing face first, upside down, in the ditch. The deer just ran straight on, over the guard rail and safely to the other side, leaving havoc in its wake. That deer would go on with its life, join its herd and have fawns.
In those moments before my small, simple, and now crushed car, the world spun around me. I watched my windshield fold inward as if made of plastic, then shot like darts at me. Screaming I had shut my eyes tightly, as if it could change what was before me. My arms were thrown in front of my face, as shards of glass bit into my flesh. I cried out in pain and fear, and my eyes momentarily opened to watch the scenery of concrete and ruble fall away before me. My car bounced along the road. I felt the seat belt tightening its grip and felt its tug more like a murderers strangling grasp than an attempt to save my life. As I was swallowed in pain my vision turned fuzzy and red before I was succumbed in darkness.
On the road, horns were blaring as traffic came to a standstill. The woman who had hit me from behind was staggering out of her shiny but slightly bent up SUV, more shook up then hurt. She balanced on tall red heels, trying to avoid the glass and the torn metal pieces strewn all around. She clutched a small silver cell phone to her ear, her voice high and cracked. Those nearest jumped out of their cars, intending to help. If only they had been cowardly or perhaps too selfish, instead easing their cars past the rubbage and going about their merry way. But the glass covered the black concrete, and so the people came. They should have left me in that black consciousness, which was so inviting and restful.
I woke to the sound of a voice full of fear, “Are you alright? Help is on the way!” Of course I wasn’t alright, but the simple hands of a witness were no match for the torn and bent metal that locked me in. And that voice, so haunting, that forced me to awake and open my eyes to the blinding light. I turned my head to that voice, that alone told me he feared I was dead. The small movement sent another wave of pain through my body and I cried out, but only yells and moans would erupt from my throat, all words had vanished from my lips. “Oh God.” I heard, and then gagging, and that awful and distinct sound of someone losing their breakfast. I felt lightheaded and my hair hung down as the seatbelt continued to dig into my skin as it held my body, wrong side up. I looked down at the crunched ceiling of the car and gasped at what I saw, though I saw it through a haze of red. Gore and blood clung to it, fresh and gruesome. As I closed my eyes, unable to again gain the comfort of the darkness I realized that it was my own. “Mine.” I thought, and felt the acidy pricking of vomit in my throat, though I managed to hold it back. Instead of vomiting I licked my lips, which felt dry and tasted of blood.
I was only hanging to a thread of life, as if a part of my torn body was desperately holding my soul. I opened my eyes once more and lifted my hand to the front left pocket of my jeans. The cell phone there, where it always remained as I drove, felt like a dead weight in my pocket. I squirmed and managed to pull it out, sending another wave of intense pain throughout my body. My brows furrowed, I was concentrating hard on what would otherwise be an easy, effortless task. I knew that probably at least twenty phones had dialed 911, so instead I squinted at the screen, frustrated by my lack of voice, the pain, and the password set on my phone. I nearly dropped it, my fingers slippery with my blood. Being the sort of person who got queasy doing school dissections, it was hard for me not to just burst into tears and give up.
“Daddy, i love u so much. U are my hero. Give my love to everyone.” This message I sent to my dad, reluctantly though, aware of the stress, worry, and pain it would cause. Grimacing at the thought and feeling the prickle of tears, I began a second. My phone was now stained with blood, the white plastic dirtied.
“I love u. Plz call my mom later and let everyone no.” I typed yet another message out, quickly and un-carefully, short handing it in a way that I would normally not. I knew this message would lead to messages of inquiry but I couldn’t worry about it so much, nor the throbbing in my side and head. For I had one left, one to the person who was most important to me. The person I loved, my first and only everything. This time tears began to stream down as I sent the message.
“You were my best of friends. I’m sorry. Love you.” The message may have seemed strange, but it fit. He had been my best friend, I was sorry for the things that had gone wrong, and I fit in the love you casually, though I meant it sincerely. After this I sent no more messages nor answered the calls and messages I received in return. I let my phone drop, looking away as it clattered into the spilled contents which were piled on the roof of the car. My eyes instead studied my side, which screamed with pain. A piece of hard plastic was lodged there, a piece of what had once been the drivers door. I observed it grimly. I closed my eyes, disgusted at the red haze my world was now drowned in. I felt a trickle of blood hit my eyelid on its passage from my mouth. I heard the sound of sirens, and though it was loud it barely registered in my mind.
From then on the world flickered around me in an annoying array of bright lights and loud noises. The firefighter that pulled me out of the smashed car and the paramedics that tried to awaken my blood deprived body could only be seen as a nuisance.
It was then that I began to regret things. I remembered my stupidity and the pain I had caused the ones I loved. I thought morbidly that my best friend would finally see me, decorated in a casket. I felt disappointed that I never had any writings published. But then I thought no more.
I never thought that day would be my last. I never imagined that in a matter of minutes my body would be broken beyond repair.
And then I was dead.
It Could Have Been Just Another Day (Part 2)
My daughter. My favorite.
I wouldn’t have admitted it before, not even to myself, but now that she’s gone the truth pours out in my tears. Those gut-wrenching, uncontrollable tears.
Maybe I was her favorite too. Maybe that was the sparkle in her eyes when she was around me, the sparkle that faded away when her mother reprimanded her. And after all, she sent me the message.
Dear God, I loved her.
I got her message at that hell hole I work at. I didn’t understand it. The message made me smile, but I had that sinking feeling that something wasn’t right.
It was far from right.
My seventeen year old daughter being smashed and smeared across the cement of a highway… that’s far from right.
I sent her a reply the moment the boss wasn’t around, a quick “I love you to.” In that slow, incorrect way that she had always teased me about. I wasn’t big on texting, but I sent it anyways. I didn’t realize that it would not be she receiving the message, but a discouraged paramedic that would call me minutes later and destroy the safety of my naivety.
Today I must stand beside the closed coffin and greet her friends and family. I will try to hold back the tears that will come despite my best efforts.
There are a lot of people here, a setting that would have surely overwhelmed her, as it overwhelms me. Some of her friends, with tear streaked cheeks, are unknown to me, and yet it is they that cry hardest.
I catch sight of that young man she was so keen on, the one I had not been so fond of. He meets my eyes, and for a moment I catch a look of confusion and loss before he ducks his head and turns away.
My wife is beside me, and somehow tears seem beyond her while I am now choking them down. Sometimes our shoulders brush, and other times she takes my hand and gives it a squeeze.
I thank what seems like a thousand people over a period of two days during the viewing and before the funeral. Clearly, my thanks are not sincere. Sure, it’s nice that they are here, but I am not grateful. Not for any of this.
During the service I completely fall apart, but I keep the sobs down so everyone can hear the preacher. I listen as he talks about her like he knew her, repeating with a speakers touch the memories we shared with him.
There is nothing that brings the family together like a funeral.
Our eldest son, whom my wife likes to refer to as the prodigal son, came home. Out younger son, in the awkward stage between being a boy and a man, seems cured of his ADHD. So we are all together here. Emotionally too, for we are all mourning, though each in our own way.
I have never cried so much in my life. Nor have I felt so hollow and hurt. I’d go through what I went through last year at least a million times, when my wife wanted to leave me, than suffer through this.
I put on my brave face and roughly wipe away my tears, but I cannot fill the hole inside me.
As she is lowered into her new home of wood and dirt (and oh God, worms), I remember the last time I saw her. I push away the vision of her face, unnaturally pale and bloody, the face I that I confirmed was hers, and brought up the real image of my daughter.
Her black hair had been tousled and her grey eyes lively as she danced around me that last times I saw her alive, avoiding my hands as we wrestled in the way we always did.
I now clutch my good sized gut, imagining the sting there of her punches, wishing too, to take those again and again.
After that we had said goodnight and exchanged quick, routine kisses and hugs. If I had known it was goodbye I would have held her close against me and never let go.
But no one gets that chance, only the choice lucky few.
I toss dirt onto the coffin and say she’s in a better place now, because that is what everyone expects and needs to hear.
But in my heart of hearts I have a sickly feeling that questions the words I say.
I try to reason that everyone feels this way, as they lay flowers on a loved ones grave. Everyone doubts then what they otherwise wholeheartedly believe. But the question remains, is it death that reveals the truth?
I do know that, a parent has not right burying their child. For the child should be the one burying the parent.
Goodbye, that is what I cry, as the last of your coffin is hidden from sight.
It Could Have Been Just Another Day (Part 3)
I got her message during class, which was droning on as usual. I sat there waiting for it to end, tapping my foot against the tiles impatiently, waiting to get out and be with the woman I love. But her message would put that on hold. I didn’t understand it, and a hundred and one possibilities (mostly grim), ran through my head.
She had warned me numerous times not to call her mother, and I had no idea at the time what, “Let everyone know” meant. But I would, for my safe little barrier of unknowing would be shattered soon enough, far too soon.
Let everyone know.
Typical of her in the most dire moments to think of “everyone”. And yet the batton could only be passed to me, to share the news.
How I ached inside.
I loved her once, probably still would have if circumstances hadn’t led me to find the one I love.
I still love her, loved. But then she was a sister to me, a friend. My best friend. Yet, I used her like a spare tire. I was selfish and made sure I was her closest friend too. I relied on her when the situation called for it, and no one else would listen to me, but I abandoned her the rest of the time.
I was paranoid, she knew that, and knew that I would not fail to call as she had instructed me to. I will never forget that phone all either.
I was nervous and pacing, loved one at my arm, trying to soothe my anxiety with lies. “I’m sure she’s alright. Probably just switched phones…” Oh how I wish it had been that simple.
The other line was picked up by a woman who was hysterical. “Who is this?!” She demanded, sobbing. I hesitated, glancing fearfully at my loved one, who wide eyed and listening, only nodded for me to answer. “Troy.” I said, as if that would explain everything.
Then I went on to tell her that I was worried about her daughter. That’s when she told me, not in an easy, break the news slowly way, no. “She’s dead!” She had yelled, “Smashed!”
Smashed indeed, I thought, as I stared unbelieving at the closed black coffin in which her wounded and dead body now lies in, forever. I would never see her face to face, not even at deaths cold depart.
I will never stop regretting those broken promises I made to you.
I’m sorry it’s too late to visit you.
You really were my best friend, though I couldn’t even keep a simple promise to see you. Now all I see is a fresh mound of dirt and the flowers I’ll leave for you.
In the morning, I wish to wake from this nightmare, and to make good my promises.
It Could Have Been Just Another Day (Part 4)
The words seared through my heart like a hot brand. The dead voice which belonged to her shell-shocked mother, “She’s dead.”
As I lay awake at night, sweating and crying, I hear that voice over and over again, a ghost that is haunting me. “She’s dead. She’s dead. Dead, dead, dead!”
The day after I found out I woke up smiling. I had been dreaming of us. I felt the sun shining through my window and everything felt right. But then the memories and the reality hit me as the dream faded, sweeping me under like a wave.
I cry and cry and cry, but she is still gone.
I loved her so much, and yet I let her go.
I hurt her. I hurt her bad.
I was so stupid. Why did I push her away?!
It should have been me. She deserved to live a happy life. I wish it had been me.
She still loved me though, despite everything. “Love you.” Her message had said. I should have told her how much I loved her! I look at that message again and again, locked into the memory of my phone.
This all seems so unreal. Her sober parents and that awful black casket that is closed. I wish I could see her face one last time. Touch her cold cheek and kiss her forehead. I know it would only hurt more, as impossible as that seems, but I am already broken.
I loved her so very much.
There goes her coffin, lowered into the ground. I lay the flowers atop it, and look down as fresh tears rise.
This isn’t right. It is so unfair.
Is there a point to life? Everyone dies.
The young and the beautiful and the dreamers.
Gone. Forever. Stolen unfairly by death.
I regret so much. I hurt so much.
My mother places a hand on my shoulder and tries to comfort me. I pull away, the touch is like acid.
I am locked away. I know she would hate me being like this, but there is no more reason to go on.
For when you died, baby, I died.