At first I hear voices, but it’s like I’m underwater or in a tunnel. I try to swallow but something’s stuck in my throat and I struggle against it, desperate to yank it out, but I’m frozen. Despite every effort to move, nothing happens. What’s worse is that because I can’t fucking open my eyes, I can’t see what’s going on. Yet my ears apparently work since I also hear a hissing sound along with some intermittent beeping. Then:
“…for now all we can do is wait…”
“…so very sorry.”
“…morphine will keep him comfortable.”
I drift off again, feeling confused but convinced everything will right itself when I wake up from this dream.
Later I wake to sniffling and nose blowing nearby. Little kids’ voices bounce around and a soft, small hand grasps mine.
“Daddy, are you awake?” a voice whispers, and the smell of bubble gum wafts over me.
I’m someone’s daddy? Shit! Meanwhile, there’s still something huge in my throat. Why can’t I move? Someone, maybe the nose blower, says, “Sweetheart, Daddy’s sleeping but he can hear you if you talk to him.”
Then another voice says, “Mommy, it’s okay to cry sometimes. Are you sad? We’re with Daddy now, so we don’t need to be sad. The doctors are making him better, right?”
A flash goes off in my brain. A floating photo of me holding a baby: I am “Daddy.” I attempt to speak, but realize it’s a damn tube down my throat. I’m intubated. Inside I’m thrashing around, flopping like a fish in a net, but in reality there’s no movement.
I hear the woman’s voice again–it must be my wife (I think I have a wife?)–and she’s on the phone.
“Jake, it’s not looking good. Could you please come? And stop by the house and bring me a bag of clothes? Maybe you could take the kids back to your place…” she breaks off in choking sobs.
And then I remember.
I took a turn too fast and flipped over a couple of times. Then I was on the gurney strapped down, my forehead taped tightly. I think there was a helicopter because the whirring sounds were so loud.
The woman I presume is my sniffling wife comes over to me and smooths my hair back. She’s not saying much. Only when one of the kids asks her something.
That’s when the next question comes.
“Mommy why is Daddy sleeping so much? When can we wake him up and take him home?”
A shaky sigh comes out.
“Daddy was driving too fast,” she explains. “And he had an accident. We can’t wake him up. His body is too hurt and tired right now.”
My child, my daughter, apparently, says, “I told Daddy I don’t like it when he drives fast.”
My wife replies, “I know, sweetie. I told him that, too. I told him all the time.”
Oh my God. What have I done?
And then one of my kids says, “I guess Daddy wasn’t a very good listener.”
I can’t move, but a tear leaks out from one of my eyes.
Excerpt From Fast Car by Tracy Chapman
I remember we were driving, driving in your car
The speed so fast I felt like I was drunk
City lights lay out before us
And your arm felt nice wrapped ’round my shoulder
And I had a feeling that I belonged
And I had a feeling I could be someone, be someone, be someone…
You got a fast car
But is it fast enough so you can fly away
You gotta make a decision
You leave tonight or live and die this way