It’s late. She’s driving. She’s on her way home. There’s something in the road. She hits it. She swerves. She loses control of the car.
A loud crash. A bounce. She’s going downhill. She’s rolling. Her car is really rolling.
And in this moment, she’s thinking, “I wish I could tell my children I love them.”
Funny. In critical moments, nobody says to themselves: “I wish I had better retirement options.”
She’s tumbling down an embankment toward an icy river, thinking simple things.
Like the day she slid a ring onto her husband’s finger and promised to love him until death.
She thinks about holding her newborn daughter. The same daughter who was born with an extra digit on her left hand. A “supernumerary finger” doctors called it.
She thinks about how she nicknamed her daugher “Six.” And how the name stuck, even after surgeons removed the appendage.
She remembers her son. And Little League games. And the day after school, when he told her that he’d found hair in his armpits.
One second. That’s all it takes. One second to relive her entire life.
How strange. Only a minutes ago, her life felt permanent. And now, it’s too damned short.
Her car hits water. She is upside down, dangling. Blood in her eyes. She is too beat-up to even cry. She is falling in and out of sleep.
The water is above her head. Then it’s touching her hair. Then her forehead. Then her eyebrows. Her nose.
In her stupor she manages to say one word before she’s submerged. It’s a word which, despite what some claim, has nothing to do with politics, war, or religion.
She swallows a lot of water. The world goes black.
Sharp sickness in her gut. It is overwhelming. A burning in her lungs. A headache which feels like she’s had an argument with a hammer.
“I’m alive,” she’s thinking.
Her eyes open. She coughs up foul-tasting river water.
She sees him. He is big. Black. Broad shoulders, thick hands. He is using his palms to press on her sternum.
“Stay with me,” he’s shouting.
She trusts him. There is something about his face. She wants to fall asleep, but he won’t let her.
“Stay with me!” he says.
The next thing she knows, she’s over his shoulder. She can see his feet. He isn’t wearing any shoes—she remembers this. Barefoot.
He carries her uphill. She catches a glimpse of her crumbled vehicle, sinking into the river. She can hardly believe it.
He places her on the pavement, leans her against a guardrail.
“Don’t close your eyes,” he says. “Stay with me.”
She sees blue lights, flashing. He tells her it’s going to be okay. He touches her face.
She remembers a lot from that night. She remembers the EMTs. She remembers a bumpy ambulance ride. She even remembers the anesthesia before surgery.
She remembers asking emergency workers about the man who saved her.
“Man?” one deputy answered. “It was MY patrol car that found you, ma’am. We found you all alone.”
“No,” she insisted. “There was a man who… Who saved me.”
The deputies only looked at each other. “No ma’am,” they said. “We didn’t see any cars on the road but yours.”
I know sometimes you think you’re alone in this world.