I could say that I just knew, but that’s cliché. I didn’t know, but on my way to work that morning, there were signs.
I kissed my wife and two kids before leaving the house. “Goodbye”, I said, not knowing the weight behind the words. When I walked outside, the grey looming clouds weighed on my mood. Suddenly, I froze in my tracks. A sly black cat purred between my red Mustang and me. It looked at me through slits of fluorescent yellow eyes. I stared back and it seemed to read my mind. A second before I could say “shoo”, it bared its teeth and scurried down the street. I shook my head, and checked my watch. I shook it again.
I threw my leather computer bag onto the passenger seat. The initials J.S stitched onto the flap courtesy of my loving wife. I placed my tea in the cup holder and shut the door. The second it shut, the skies opened up. Buckets of rain splattered across my windshield and blurred my vision like a sheet of ice. The wipers moved it away momentarily, but it was quickly replaced. Clapton’s Tears In Heaven filled the air with a beautiful sadness. I remember thinking, ‘it seems a fitting song for the weather.’ When I went to change the station, I could’ve sworn my eyes were playing tricks on me. The audio system, tuned to 99.9, seemed to flash 66.6. I blinked hard, reopening to a solid 99.9. It was time for a change. AM sports. All this before I even left my driveway!
I turned onto one of the major roads near my house and headed north to school. It was awfully hard to see, but I only had a 10-minute drive ahead of me. Of course I hit the first red light, which gave me time to look at myself in the rearview mirror. I was troubled as my own blue eyes stared back, empty. I was used to seeing them lit up in the morning with avid focus. When I looked up to the traffic lights, they appeared to be flashing red. A honk shook me out of the daydream. Green means go!
At the next intersection, my body began to tremble. A wave of anxiety crashed against my nervous system, drowning it in fear. I couldn’t figure out why this was happening, which made the wave grow larger. My sweat glands opened up like the skies, forehead reflecting off the rearview mirror. I couldn’t hear the radio anymore so I pressed the power button with my shaky finger. Silence. All I could hear was the sound of rain drops hitting the glass, spreading on impact. I looked out my window and my focus shifted directly to the corner of the intersection. A ring of flowers had been nailed to the rickety wooden fence. There were other bouquets surrounding it. “We love you, Jason” was branded across the top. Terror grabbed my heart as I turned my head back into the car. The “J.S” on my workbag looked bolder than ever.
“How have I not noticed that memorial before?” I said out loud. Another honk. My foot pressed on the gas, harder this time. I didn’t know what to do, but I knew that seeing my name on that memorial was a bad omen. I felt like I had to get away. Get away first, think later.
I could hear my tires treading down the slick road as I flew down the left lane. They made a squishy sound beneath me. Getting stopped at another red light felt out of the question. The very thought of sitting still with my thoughts was enough to cloud my judgment. The light before me turned yellow, and my foot pressed the metal. I drifted through the intersection two seconds after the light had turned red, but I was coming in too hot, approaching the top of a hill. The Mustang took off, leaping high through the air, the hot tea following suit.
You always see it in the movies, people’s lives flashing before them as something horrible happens. I never thought it to be true, until then.
Everything from my first kiss to holding my first child scanned my mind like the most vivid roll of film I had ever seen. The ironic thing is that it’s supposed to “flash right before your eyes”, but it doesn’t happen like that. It passed through my mind and yes, I could “picture” it, but I couldn’t actually see it. All I saw was the dark clouds, the road in front of me, and an old cemetery off to the right side. The endless rows of stones spanned for miles like a medieval army. I wasn’t one to give up easily, but I had lost all hope. The signs were too much for me to bear. I pictured my wife and children sitting at the dinner table, next to an empty place setting. It brought tears to my eyes a top the horror beneath. This isn’t what I wanted. I didn’t want to become one of those stories people talk about. “Hey, did you hear about Jason?” I wanted to see my children grow up into adults. I wanted to grow old with my wife. I didn’t want to die.
Dave Maze is an author, teacher, musician, and avid fan of rainsticks (mmm…tranquility). To read more about him visit www.mazetheauthor.com