Blood Across My Screen

Albrecht_Dürer_Oswolt_Krel

 

Until the day I die, I’ll never forget those glassy unblinking eyes. Deep and haunting. Surrounded by the blood pouring down her forehead.  Her left hand reaching for my forearm as I work feverishly to undo her seat belt.  Her breathing is laboring, a gargling sound with each heave of her chest.  My mind races with the endless possibilities I am currently facing. I find myself in this perilous situation alone on a long stretch of south Louisiana country road in near total darkness. Her phone, still in her right hand, provides me with the only light inside the car.  It lights up with every text received from someone who is a total stranger to me.  “911!” I think as I pull myself from inside her window and reach in my pocket for my phone.  I run my finger across the screen to unlock it.  The light now reveals my home screen streaked with her blood and the zero coverage sign on the top bar.  “Shit, what do I do?” I say out loud.  I look both directions on the highway and see the beautiful stars among the large oak trees towering above us.  “The heavens” I think briefly.  The sound of movement inside the car reminds me of the grave situation I find myself in. I stick my body inside and feel her chest rise against my ear as I reach for the seat belt a second time. I hear that deep gargle sound again and a faint “I don’t want to die.” She she is aware of the situation.  “How do the hell I help her?” I think as I wrestle with the seat belt.   I am just a 16 year old farm boy returning home from my grandmothers house when I stumbled into this awful situation. Now, in what seems like only seconds since I arrived, a life before me is slipping away in front my very eyes.  I take a deep breath as the seat belt finally unfastens.  My brain finally registers the smell of burned rubber, gasoline and alcohol.  “What do I do?” I yell as I again pull myself from inside the window.  I attempt to open the door to the car to no avail.  “Miss!  Miss!” I say in a panicked voice.  “Can you hear me?”  The only response I receive is yet another laboring breath.  My mind goes blank. Suddenly I hear a man telling me to get in my car and drive to the next house for help.  I oblige and race to a farm house about two miles south of the accident.  I quickly exit my car and run to the front door.  I knock vigorously.  “I need help!” I yell into the door.  I hear footsteps between my gasping breath.  I look at my feet as the door opens and the light from within shines upon me.  As my eyes slowly work their way from my feet to my shirt and dangling arms I notice I am covered in blood.  I hurriedly tell the man of the situation as he hurriedly pulls me inside the foyer.  He yells to his wife, still out of sight to me, to call 911 while he quickly puts his boots on.  “You stay here with my wife while I head to the scene.”  My body trembles as I notice the injured lady’s handprint on my blood covered forearm.  The farmer’s wife calls me into the living room where she ask for the number to call my parents.  I stood in silence waiting for their arrival.

Now, two days later I stand next to this painting in the hallway of the town funeral home. I am staring at it intensely oblivious to my current surroundings.  I am here at the request of the parents of Shelia Dowling, the young lady I tried to assist on that dark country road. The funeral home employee has gone to tell them of my arrival.  I am scared beyond belief. I don’t know anything about her injuries or eventual passing.  I didn’t read about the accident though my mother told me it was on page two of the daily paper and the internet.  I feel just as helpless as I did that night.  If I leave these men in the painting and walk down the hallway I will certainly see the body of the lady I struggled alone to help.  I have never seen a dead body before.  “What do I say to them?” I think to myself. I was absolutely NO help to their daughter. And I know no one here. I am alone.  My mind not able to erase the vision Shelia’s eyes accompanied by the sounds of her struggling for air.  I am shaking as the parents approach me. The employee quietly introduces us.  “Micheal, meet Evelyn and Sterling Dowling. They are Shelia’s parents and are very happy that you came today.”

Mr. Dowling is the first to extend his hand for mine.  As we shake hands I look at the face of Mrs. Evelyn and notice the red cheeks and swollen eyes.  After my hand is freed, I reach out and hug her.  In a trembling voice I say “I am so sorry.”  I then let out a river of tears accompanied  by my loud wailing as if it was my own family member loss that evening.  I feel the father’s hand on my back and here his words “We are so proud how brave you were to offer help to our daughter.  I am sure your presence gave her much comfort and for that we are forever grateful.” Mrs. Eveyln held me tightly and stroked my back. “Wipe your tears Michael,” she says calmly. “You are a wonderful young man and I wish you nothing but the best in your future.  You will forever be in our thoughts and prayers.”  I wiped my face with a kleenex offered by the funeral home worker.  The visit is brief. The mother kisses me on the cheek and says thank you once again.  I promptly turn around and  walk out into the hot and humid Louisiana air.  As i walk to my car, I understand that I was forever changed.  I will be forever connected to Sheila Dowling though we only came into contact for five minutes of my sixteen plus years on this planet. I will never forget her. I hope to meet her again.

 

This work of fiction was written for The Speak Easy #162 at Yeah Write

Relief

This post was written for Father Friday.  Click HERE to read about it.

It was a Tuesday morning, the last week of high school for me.  It was finals week.  Ah, how nice!  Done with school.  I parked on the one way side street as I did each day my senior year.   A group of us always parked here and talked before the bell rang for home room.  I headed to home room after the bell and sat at my regular seat.  My teacher, Mrs. Jones said “Ronald to go the counselors office and see Mr. Smith.  Take your books with you too please.”

Off I went for the walk across our open campus.  I crossed one street wondering if my transcripts were for some reason messed up.  “Am I going to graduate this week?” were my thoughts.  I walked into the office and the student aide said just go into Mr. Smith’s office.  Now he was a very nervous acting man.  I walked in and he stood up and said “I need to take you to the hospital, something happened to your father.” 

“I drove to school, I can take my car” I replied.  I thought nothing of it.  My dad had been hospitalized many times before for various reasons, many concerning his heart. 

“No, I must take you.  Leave your books here and don’t worry about finals.  I will take care of everything.”

That was my clue that something was not right.  I graduate in less than ten days, why would he say not to worry about finals.  We got into his car and headed off campus.  He said nothing.  My mind raced with different thoughts, but for some strange reason I knew.  As we pulled up in front of the entrance to the hospital,  Mr. Smith looked at me and said “everything at school will be taken care of.  I am sorry.”

I stepped out the car and walked towards the entrance to the visitors lobby of the hospital.  At the door was a classmates mom and nurse, Mrs. Russo.  I am from a small town in Cajun country of south Louisiana where you know most everyone in your town.  I have known Mrs. Russo all my life.  I walk up to her and she simply says “I am sorry Ronald” and hugged me.  I now see my mom sitting on the couch in the lobby with my Aunt Sydney beside her.  My dad’s youngest brother is there already. 

I don’t know how you are supposed to react in that moment. I know I acted differently that I thought I would. I thought about this moment often growing up.  I just knew I would throw myself on the ground, beating  it with my fists asking “Why?”.  I remember walking by his room some days while he napped and I would stop to make sure he was breathing. I did this the Saturday that had just passed. We were mowing the lawn when he stopped and said he didn’t feel good and needed to rest.  I mostly worried about him killing himself in a car accident after stopping at the bar after work, which was a regular occurrence.  My reaction was nothing I had thought about.  I just quietly walked to my mom and hugged her.  Then my aunt.  And my uncle.  There were no tears shed at that moment.  For me, mostly silence as other family members gathered in the lobby. My uncle took me into the hall of the hospital and talked to me about going to my house and chosing a suit for my dad.  As I stood talking to him the funeral home workers were wheeling my dad’s body down the hall in the opposite direction.  He then said he had to go break the news to my grandmother.  I returned to the lobby and was hugged by more family members.  Finally it was agreed that my mom would go to my aunt’s house and I would go to ours and chose a suit to take to the funeral home.  Off I went.

I had a friend bring me from the hospital to my car, which was still parked along the side street near school.  I don’t recall the conversation any longer if there even was one.  I got in my car and drove the five-miles to my home in the country.  I suppose it was being alone for the first time this morning that my mind started to wander.  Where it settled was a surprising place and one that is so very clear even to this very day.

Relief.

It was over.  I didn’t have to worry about being yelled at any longer.  I didn’t have to worry about what he would call my mom after a few drinks.  I didn’t have to worry about him being killed in a car accident.  I didn’t have to worry about his mood.  I didn’t have to worry.  It was like I was free.  I recall feeling a physical lightness to my body.  Relief.

Now that is not to say despite all he put me through I didn’t love him cause I did.  That is why I worried so much I suppose.  I don’t feel bad that my first real feeling was relief.  It’s not hard to tell people about my feelings at that moment.  I am sure it is very different from how otheres would feel upon learning of the death of their father.  For me, it is what it is and I make no apologies for it. 

Maybe some who will read this can relate to my feelings at that time.  I am sure many people will be horrified to read how I felt.  If you knew the truth, you to would have be relieved.

Till we meet again.  Good day.

Mind of Shoo