As I drove north along the Hudson River, I reveled in the cool morning air. It would be a beautiful St. Patrick’s Day; a perfect day for my concert at the retirement home, followed by an afternoon appearance on a local tv station. I had left Dan's Ossining apartment slightly after he had gone to work. I was feeling healthy, for once; grateful to have avoided the annual March cold that New Yorkers passed around riding the subway. The move from Lower Manhattan, I thought, had been a good thing for both Dan and me.
There was no one on the road at this hour. I tooled along in the Button, my 1977 Honda Civic, which I had bought because my Celtic harp JUST fit in the back. I loved the feel of driving this little stick-shift, having both lanes to myself. I looked across the grassy strip dividing the highway. No one was in the south-bound lanes either; it was as if I owned the morning. I sang a verse from one of the tunes I would be performing later as I drove, admiring the wall of rock that rose along the shoulder of the road. My gaze drifted back to the swale of grass; there was a car in the distance lying upside-down in the center.
No one was near the car; no other car or person about. As I drew closer, I said a prayer for whoever had been in that car, that Midnight Blue station wagon, the same color as Dan's Toyota wagon. I passed the car, but compulsively looked in my rear-view mirror, where I read the letters on the inverted bumper; the misspelled phrase: "TAILIGATING KILLS." The Button drifted gently towards the wall of granite as my foot eased off the gas pedal. I felt little car slow to a stop on the road. No one was behind me. There was no one anywhere; the only sound was my own breathing. This had to be a dream. Some other person just like me had to have cut those letters out and stuck them on the bumper of a stranger who happened to have a car just like Dan's.
I put the stick in reverse and backed down the road until I was parallel to the car. I rolled down my window and looked. The car was unoccupied. The windows were intact. Someone had been taken away. I parked the Button along the cliff, on the shoulder. I must take a breath; I must not pass out. I must think. No one can help me. Dan is gone. He is terribly hurt. His neck is broken.... He is dead. I will have to call his parents; no, I will have to drive to the City to tell them face to face. They are old; this will kill... I will have to find where they have taken Dan's body. I will need to find a phone so I can call the nursing home and the television station and tell them that things have taken a turn and that I won't be able to perform. How…will...I…ever...I will never..."It's ok…I'M OK!" Dan's head and arms were inside my open window. What was?...We were hugging each other, gasping and sobbing. Was THIS the dream?
"I was sitting in the police car across the road and I saw you pass." Dan gasped. I looked at him as though I were seeing a ghost. He spoke quickly; "There was no one on the road until way behind me I saw a pick-up truck with a plow on the front speeding up the highway. I was sure he would change lanes, since he must have seen me directly ahead. He just kept coming and then he hit me and my car flipped over."
I pictured Dan looking in his rearview mirror, seeing the truck growing in size, checking the road ahead, glancing at the mirror, seeing the truck advancing on him, looking back at the road, considering his options...CRASH...I hear the sickening sound of metal hitting metal. I see Dan realizing his car was going to flip, ducking down on the seat...the torque of flying through air while upside down...the endless pause before the thud of hundreds of pounds of car thudding down on the earth, coming to so sudden a stop that the seatbelt cuts into the chest and waist...then...that surreal stillness.
I hear my own voice as though it was coming from a stranger, "You are not hurt? You are alright?" These were statements of the incredible as well as questions. Later, Dan would tell me that the man who hit him was either asleep or drugged and that after seeing Dan climb out of the car through a window, thought it was fine to leave the scene. Dan would, eventually get checked out by NYU's Medical Center and learn that, miraculously, he had escaped unscathed. That evening, we would cry together; there would be time for hugging. I would watch over him, studying his face in the moonlight.
"The police will give me a ride to work. We're only a mile away," Dan said.
"You are alright," I said again.
I watched Dan cross the road and pass the wreck of his car. Once I was sure he was safely on the opposite shoulder where the police car sat, I eased the Button back onto the road and drove away to perform the first of my two gigs.
Bobbie Wayne has a BA (music) and an MFA (Art.) She was a painter (Abstract, Portrait, and sign), music therapist, singer/songwriter, Nashville songwriter and plays Celtic harp. She studied writing at Grub Street in Boston. She has had ten stories published in The Ravens Perch online magazine. She has also been published in Intrinsick online magazine, SLAB magazine, Blueline Literary Journal, and Colere Literary magazine.