Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Split Second

Her heart was like a glittery jewelry box of treasured dreams.

Kind of like one of those boxes girls have when they're little - the ones with the cute music chimes and the tiny ballerina that spins inside.

She clung tightly to her sparkling ideas, hoping someday they'd become her reality.

Life wasn't really all that dramatic for her.

It was punctuated by the sound of punching a time card or the ding of a microwave. She basically went through the motions waiting for something significant to happen in that world she called her own.

And so this dusty, dowdy life she lived became one of complacency, of no expectation. Destiny had handed her a bum rap, so she passed the time marking Xs on the calendar and picking up dirty pennies for a rainy day not so far away.

She played the check game.

You know - the one where you post date checks and mail bills right under the wire - hoping they got to the credit card company, the landlord or the phone company before the late date. Meantime, you're crossing your fingers, hoping the check doesn't go through your own bank until the money is actually there.

Yeah, she played that game in spades.

Her finances were basically a house of cards. Each bill balancing on another flimsy circumstance. Get burned once and it would turn her world into a raging inferno of desperation.

And so that's how she happened to find herself counting seconds that Friday.

She left work late - it was the one occasion they offered her any sliver of overtime and so she jumped at the chance. She only hoped those few moments of double pay wouldn't cost her a high price in the end. Her car insurance was due. It was a bill she paid religiously. She knew by heart the date her policy would be cancelled - it all hinged on a postmark.

She had no idea her destiny was riding on a pinky, inky, indelible mark left on an envelope.

The steel keys were cold in her hand. There was no time to waste - she shoved the metal in the ignition and with the exacting precision of a surgeon she turned the key while placing her feet on the ignition and clutch.

Every second counted.

Every second counted.

That was the mantra playing in her head as she compulsively shifted, glanced in the rear view mirror and cranked open the window with a sweeping, simultaneous move.

She had half an hour to get to the post office and get that precious stamp on her pristine, white envelope. It would be a lifetime of time when no rushing's involved, and yet a flashing moment when your heart is racing and your brain is over thinking ten billion things.

What if there's a wreck on the interstate? What if the road becomes a parking lot?

So many what ifs to get in the way of her mission, and yet so little time to dwell on it.

She glided out of the factory's parking lot. Her mind was a million miles away as she cruised through several streets until she hit the interstate. The songs on the radio teased her with giddy descriptions of a better life. Cristalle. Keys to the Benz. Flashy taunts that dug into her skin - reminding her that she was behind the wheel of a beat up, blue Sentra trimmed with rust and a missing hub cap.

Her head raced, and her car did, too.

The engine roared as she let her greasy brown hair fly in the breeze, taking her aggression, all her worldly anger on the road.

She had no idea.

*** *** ***
The sound of honking cars and creeping traffic were barely the underscore to the drama happening in the back of the ambulance.

Tense shouts and efficient chaos working to keep that heart pumping. Working to keep that girl breathing. Police would call it an accident. The little blue car was traveling just too fast. There was no way she could see that big, black Mercedes merging - her blind spot must have been in the way.

Such a cruel joke.

Sometimes one has a right to wonder whether God has a heart of his own.

The factory did what it could. Workers gave small bills and big coins to a collection in the break room. Her Mom and Dad had essentially pocket change in the bank and they were already paying a second mortgage on the house. It's a shame she didn't have health insurance, they'd cry between the dried up stream of tears. Her parents were at a loss - for words, for energy for everything.

And the car insurance. She never did get that letter mailed that fateful day.

That envelope was still floating aimlessly on the road, tumbling beside cigarette butts and crushed up soda cans and empty plastic bags.

Her policy was cancelled two days after that crash - the same day her heart gave out.

Life isn't really fair, is it?

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