21 August 2002

Death's Fingertips

If I had known what was going to happen today, I would've stayed in bed. Perhaps I would've crawled under it, stuffing blankets and pillows around myself to keep Death from seeing me under there. My cell phone would've been within arm's length, and a flashlight would've provided all of the light I could've possibly needed. A radio would be with me too, in case a severe storm or tornado suddenly sprang up (as was wont in Texas), or just for entertainment, if I wanted to listen to my favorite station. Anyway, anyone with a functioning brain could tell that I did not want to die, nor did I want to have my life changed.

The future always seemed so certain to me, especially since I'm young. "You have the rest of your life," was what my mother told me the day before, in an attempt to curb my anxiousness for finishing college. "You can do whatever you want once you finish." Who would've thought she would have the scare of her life.

But just like everyone else on the planet, I didn't know my number could've been up. The last thing I said to my mother was a grunt for good morning. The last thing I ate was a cold piece of sausage. The last thing I did in my home was pick my nose. I can't believe I made it so easy for him. All Death had to do was sit back and wait.

Then it came down to ten minutes.

I left my house, never realizing that I almost wouldn't see it again.

I got into my Corolla, completely oblivious that my first car was about to become a memory.

I drove down the dirt road, sipping on my iced-tea and checking out a half-naked man jogging with his dog. I made my usual right turn on the access road, and made a left onto the highway. I bounced around in my seat, singing loudly to myself. I slowed to a stop in the middle lane, waiting for the traffic to get moving. A few seconds later, I heard a loud noise of metal plowing into metal, as if two airplanes collided. I heard something snap in half. I felt something land hard on my knees. That was all I could remember of that.

I didn't know if I had passed out or not. I just remember seeing the ceiling of my car, and wondering why the hell I was lying down. Then I heard someone screaming, and sat up to realize what had happened.

I had been in my first car accident.

A van was parked on the side of the highway, and its driver, a balding man of about forty five, was screaming at me. When I turned to him, he put his hand across his heart in an apparent sign of relief, but his eyes shone with disbelief. I ignored him in favor of my cell phone.

My body shook from an intense pain that didn't seem to have a source. My face was wet, but I didn't think it was from tears, and my voice was strained and ragged, as if I had harshly screamed, even though I couldn't recall doing so. I talked as calmly as I could to the operator, pissed because I couldn't cry even though I wanted to, and pissed because of all the eyes. I felt the other drivers looking at me as they passed, imagining their little gasps of surprise and shock, while mouthing to me unfelt "are you okay's?"

Once I called the police, I glanced around and saw that the car behind me had run into me, which plowed me into the truck in front of me. The snap I heard was my seat being broken in half. Nothing fell into my lap, but my lap rose up and met with the steering wheel. Not only that, my air bag didn't deploy, and my seatbelt barely kept me from being ejected.

The front of my car was crushed so badly, I was able to reach out and touch the truck in front of me through my window. As if a cue, a vague fascination passed over me while I sat there roasting my ass off waiting for the police to arrive. My life did not flash before my eyes, as the saying went, even though the force of the impact was hard enough to knock my car into neutral drive. Not only that, my tea and Dr. Pepper were splayed completely over my windshield. My brownies were nearly flattened like pancakes, and what was left of the engine blew soft white smoke into the air, as if sending a smoke signal to heaven. I took this all in like I was watching paint dry.

Everything else happened so quickly that it's nothing more than a blur in my mind. But when I was freed from my car, I saw that all that was left was the passenger seat along with the windshield and dashboard. My car was crumbled up like an accordion between the two vehicles. If my seat didn't break, I would've easily cracked my head open, or at the very least have a serious concussion.

As I was helped across the highway to my grandfather's awaiting arms, I realized that I probably just barely missed the cold embrace of Death's arms as he stood there waiting for me, calling my name with a warm voice and smelling like sunshine.

At that thought I hurried across and buried my face into my grandfather's neck, inhaling his cologne as I dug my fingernails into his shoulders, closing my eyes against the feel of Death's fingertips raking down my back.