Memories or pieces of them, are common with head injuries and traumatic events. In my case, I was walloped with both. But I’m doing something about that today. This is remembrance and making peace with the past that has haunted me so. This is a celebration of life and the end of a journey.
I’m taking one last ride. This is the one that counts the most. It’s time to purge a ghost I’ve carried since I was 14 years old. I’m alone and though not in the vehicle of my choice, it will do for what I have in mind.
It’s a sunny 75 degrees, not a cloud in the sky but a slight breeze is stirring the falling leaves around the still green yards. A picture perfect October day and almost exactly like the one so many years ago when everything changed.
This road is known well to me, though I haven’t driven down it in ages because it was too painful and because I was afraid of waking what barely left me alone as it was. Still tucked back in a quiet neighborhood and I can see that not much has changed since I’ve been here last.
No one is out to have to watch for and no one to stop me.
I stop at the stop sign, the one I can just barely remember from that day, before the memory blanks take over and everything is a grey fog, illuminated only by small flashes. Sounds, voices, feelings, that’s all I’m left with. Until I dream and remember it all.
It’s now or never.
Taking a deep breath, I let the clutch out and burn through first gear, just like I’ve burned through all the awkward social situations I’ve experienced. Hard and fast.
With the shift to second gear, the pain of those memories are gone. At least momentarily.
A couple flicks of the wrist and 2 stomps of a foot and the regret over things I should have said, actions I’d wished I’d taken, disappear, are left behind with third and forth gear. Going faster now, the white broken line begins to blur past the windows, much like all my relationships gone sour. There and gone.
50 miles an hour
I can do this, I have to do this.
55 miles per hour
The curve looms ahead, the one so deceptive in appearance that it’s fooled far more experienced drivers than that of an energetic 16 year old boy on a sunny day, out to enjoy the weather and the company of two teenage girls. Oh so full of life he was. He shone with it.
Right in the middle of that curve, I bank hard to the left, and I lock the brakes up. When the traction assist kicks in, the sound it makes, oh God, the sound it makes,the way it feels inside the car; it makes fragments of memories burst forth in waves.
And when I come to a shuddering stop, it’s to look at a paved driveway and a jutting bay window, one neatly manicured yard over. I can hear the sounds, can feel the jolts, see the sparks thrown from a roll bar dragging against pavement, can smell the stench of burning tires.
I can remember being glad that the horrible twisting and turning and metal grinding was over and feeling the warmth of the sun hit my face. I remember thinking that I could die now and it was with the greatest relief I’ve ever felt in my life.
I remember feeling like I was flying before the nothingness swallowed me up and I was still grateful. Because this terrible thing that had happened and I wasn’t sure what that terrible thing was, just that something truly awful had occurred, was done. I could rest and I could be at peace.
This is what I’ve run from since the day it happened and what has remained by my side despite all my efforts to block it all out, to forget, to survive. It was there through nursing school, the birth of my child, all the failures and the wins.
And it’s time to let go. This is something I have to do in order to move on with my life. Please understand.
I’m sorry that your life was taken, sorry that we had to learn about mortality at such a young age, I was only 14 and it scares me to think Duck is getting closer to this every year. But mostly, I’m so so sorry that I survived and you didn’t.
Until recently, I was convinced that the wrong person had been taken, that a mistake had been made, for surely there was no grand purpose for my life, not one that had been revealed to me anyway.
That purpose has yet to show itself to me but in spite of that snafu (remember you did tell me that I was God’s very own comedian…) it’s time for me to let you go, for you to rest in peace within my memories. Because in them you never have.
See, this is the first year since my world was blown apart that I haven’t wakened screaming from dreams I can’t recall except knowing that it was of this event. And of you whispering to me when I cried out that ‘every man walks alone,’ that, “No man walks alone.”
This is how I know I’m ready. I’m looking at the place where I hadn’t dared come back to and I’m not flinching any longer.
Be at peace my friend. Because I am. At last. I’ll never forget you, but I’ll only remember the good times we shared and not this.
With all my love,