Monday, July 11, 2016

Nurse the Hate: Afternoon Commute

The woman drove in the passing lane pushing her Ford to 85 mph.  Traffic was heavy.  She fumbled with her cigarette and looked down at her phone.  Red brake lights filled the highway.  He slowed rapidly while staring in his rearview.  The woman was oblivious, typing a text with one hand and struggling with the cigarette with the other.  She had no idea that he was stopped in front of her.  Her face was contorted in the attention of composing her text message.  She was flying down the highway.  He braced for impact. 

He had been driving aggressively.  The afternoon commute was generally free of police and he used to it wash away the annoyances of the day.  Sometimes the routine of life can seem like a long journey with the reward of gradual progress.  Other times it reveals itself to be a treadmill where no matter how fast the pace, there is no progress, only the hum of the machine to keep you in place.  He felt an anxiety all day, the combination of Herculean amounts of caffeine and the growing awareness of having lost any remaining chance at happiness.  His remaining life would consist of meetings where people made up jargon as he daydreamed about what could have been.  He would need to practice his fake smile for the company newsletter if he won the coveted District of the Quarter award.  He recently noticed his smile, once his best feature, had morphed into more of a grimace.

He heard the sound of the tires lock up behind him.  They screamed out their disapproval.  On the radio a hospital advertisement trumpeted caring treatment.  He wondered if that was where he would go after they pulled him from the wreckage.  His experience with that hospital had been limited.  He recalled visiting a friend after surgery.  A man behind a curtain moaned in his bed while he and his friend talked.  They pretended the man’s pain wasn’t happening as if that would give him more dignity.  Later his friend told him that they wheeled him away for a scan and when he returned the man was gone.  He asked the shift nurse where the man had gone.  She responded “Mr. Johnson?  Oh… We took him away.”  He wasn’t sure what that meant.  He didn’t ask for clarification.

He wondered who would visit him in the hospital.  Anyone?  There would probably be a committee sent from work to bring the expense account floral arrangement and try to assess how long he would be gone.  It might be a chance for one of them to move up.  It would probably depend on how spectacular his injuries were.  A body cast would bring out a big crowd.  An amputated limb?  Hmmm…  That seemed too depressing to visit.  It was nice to imagine a lost love would visit, so broken by the news of this tragic event that she would travel a great distance to sob by his bedside.  Of course, this was one of those things that only happened in cinema from the 1940s.  In real life, a lost love might attach a quick note to “Get better soon!” with an emoji for added impact on a social media post of the photograph of his broken body in the hospital bed.  

Things can change so quickly and randomly.  His mother found comfort in saying “God has a plan” whenever terrible things happened to the family.  He believed in chaos.  It somehow offered more hope than to suggest that life was nothing but a poorly written script from a SuperBeing.  Maybe there was still a chance that he could end up somewhere happily ever after in a soft white bedroom with classical music softly playing in the background.  It was better to think that it was dumb luck that was going to leave him crippled in this car crash rather than “God’s Plan”.  Life was tough enough without worrying about an Almighty working solidly against you.

The sound of crunching metal was softer than he thought.  This was because the woman in the Ford had somehow swerved into the cement wall next to him missing him by inches.  Her car slid to a stop quickly, the airbags deployed.  She seemed dazed.  He rolled down his window to ask if she was OK.  She seemed concerned only about one thing.  She looked for her phone on the floor of the car while yelling “I’m OK!  I’m OK!”.  A man jumped out of his pickup truck behind her, ran up and leaned in her window.  “Are you OK ma’am?  Ma’am?”  The man seemed genuinely excited for this chance to be “useful”.  This would be his go-to story for the rest of 2016.  “I’m going to call 911.  Don’t worry.  I’m going to call 911”.  The man called 911. 

Traffic began to move in front of him.  He decided to leave.  He drove off, slowly gaining speed.  His brief moment of clarity faded.  Traffic gained momentum.  He blended into it.  Hundreds of cars all headed in the same direction.  He looked for a ramp to pull off.    


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