“Tell me what happened right before the crash ma’am.”
I blink my eyes. Something is dripping into them, and it burns. Raising a hand to wipe it away I see that my arm is bound up and I can’t reach my forehead to stop whatever it is that is coming into my eyes.
The person beside me repeats the question. I look at them. It’s a police officer. The dark of the night is cut sharply by the flicker of lights on emergency vehicles.
I just try to look around and I notice that my view is completely blocked by the aforementioned vehicles. Something is still dripping into my eyes, stinging, burning. I try to wipe it away again, and finally someone notices, and gently wipes away what has been dripping and burning.
Trying to find my voice, I’m startled to hear a dull, cracked voice answer “Thank you.”
“Ma’am, can you tell me what happened?”
I blink, drawing my attention back to the office who is sitting at my side. As slowly, sensation and realization kick in, I begin to shake.
Memories flood my senses. Looking away, I see the grass, an almost neon green against the stark black of night, and the flashing white-blue lights of the police car.
We’d been driving… just out for a drive – passing the time, no more than a pair of bored kids on a lazy Saturday summer afternoon. One of those days in between high school and the next step, the rest of our lives as some people put it.
We had gone up to the lake and sat on the rocks, dangling our feet, at first carefully, into the cold water, and then longer, until our toes had become pruned, and the water felt almost warm. It dreamlike – it was impossible to say what was real and what was that exaggeration of the mind that your first taste of adult freedom brings.
As the sun had begun to color the western sky with shades of pink, purple and orange, we finally left the lake to lovers and evening song birds.
The decision to take the long way home had been mine – not meaning to return home to my parents and that reminder that summer was only a fleeting glimpse of freedom. I just wanted to keep on in the discussion of dreams and aspirations – of studying in France, of backpacking the world.
I wanted to be a famous vagabond, telling lush tales of far off places that most people would rarely get to visit.
I came back to myself – the rough coldness of the back stair of the ambulance chilling me, the rough pilled texture of the blanket that some thoughtful person had draped around my shoulders against my skin.
I’d barely had time to register the instant that was going to mark the true start of my adult life, a blink and the silver grey shadow, almost ghostlike, had been in front of us.
I hadn’t had time to scream before the jarring crunch of breaking glass and the stark shriek of metal bending in ways it was never designed to hit me, and the warm embrace of darkness surrounded me, pulling me in like a lover’s caress.
I tell all of this to the officer beside me in halting, unsteady words, the weakness of my own voice in the preternatural silence shocking to my ears.
He jots down notes, nodding not looking at me as he does. Something has happened beyond the basic things of a car accident.
The office places his hand on my shoulder, thanks me and then walks away, his navy blue uniform fading into the inky blackness of the night.
A medic steps in front of me telling me that she’s going to do something. I’m not listening, looking around for where she is, what is going on.
An ambulance pulls away. Silent save for the crunch of the gravel under the tires. Only the headlights piercing the wall of darkness as it slowly slinks away into the night.
The cold unfeeling sculpture of twisted metal, briefly lost in the lights and the reality, the silence like puzzle pieces fall into place.
I can’t cry.
There are no tears. I’m torn to the depths of my soul. The would-haves, the could-haves, the should-have beens, scream wildly through my mind.
I want to scream, let out a primal expression of the horrors in my soul.
My Life, changed in a heartbeat.
A life is gone.
A single breath, separating life and death.
A single heartbeat, silenced forever.
A lone crystalline tear slides down my cheek, tracing a clean path through the dirt on my face.
It’s over. Before it began.