As the truck emerges from the fog, I manage to notice it before it is too late.
I jump off to the side rolling over on the rough asphalt of the parking lot. I look up to see the truck come to a screeching halt. Smoke rises up from the brunt tires and nauseous fumes spill out of the muffler.
I try to catch my breath but struggle to. The world becomes a haze around me. As I am about to collapse, a blurry figure emerges from the death trap of a truck.
He sprints over and catches me before my head falls onto the asphalt.
Before everything goes black I hear the driver shrill out.
I wake in the break room on a makeshift stretcher that was merely a towel covering the lunch break table.
As my eyes try to blink away the blur I can feel myself breathing normally again. I eventually sit up to see my coworkers encompassing me.
My head throbs and I rest a hand on my brow as I wince and let out a moan.
“Hey guys. What happened?”
“You ran out into the parking lot like a lunatic and I almost hit you.”
Suddenly the shrill of the horn blares in my ears as I see the flashing lights of the headlights of the truck heading straight towards me.
I jolt up slightly, but not so slight that they all don’t notice.
”Woah buddy, what’s happening?”
I look up at him but it is as if I was looking through him.
“Sure as hell didn’t look like nothing. Why didn’t you tell me you had asthma?”
“Was I having an attack?”
“I’d say so.”
Says the truck driver who happens to be Micheal. A part of me wishes he hit me so he would take the blame.
Disgruntled worker hits innocent co-worker. The tabloids would say. My boss knew we did not get along so there’s no way he would let the whole insane coworker runs into street story slide.
Nevertheless, I can not find the words to say, so I simply say, “oh.”
”Now answer my question. Why did you not tell me about your asthma?”
He crosses his arms making me even more hesitant to say but I eventually cough up.
“I thought you might fire me. You know the situation with my Mom and all and I already know I am one fuck up away from losing my job.”
He uncrosses his arms and his stern face turns to one of compassion and sympathy.
“Why would you think that? You’re not the first worker I’ve had that has had asthma. Do me a favor next time. Don’t hide your inhaler in your locker.”
A tick forms on the end of his mouth making me believe he was my friend, not just a boss.
“He’s right. If we didn’t break open your locker in time we might have lost ya.”
I saw the same sympathetic remorse in Micheal even. But maybe it was all an act.
My boss gesticulates with an arm.
”Save your breath… Sorry bad timing. Anyways, none of us wanted to leave till we knew you were okay. Are you?”
”Okay? No. To be perfectly honest my life is in shambles now and I’m just cleaning up the mess.”
”No, I mean are you okay to drive home.”
As I made my way home I feared I might see that horrible woman that resembled a ghost of my Mother. However, every time I looked into the rearview mirror, all I saw was a vacant seat.
Maybe I really had just had too much to drink.
My car slowed to a crawl at the red light. Given that my shift ended at five a.m. The streets were mostly desolate.
I think I read something about how drinking can cause asthma attacks or make symptoms worse or whatever. Maybe this was that?
The road stretched for miles and miles before I even got close to my home. I hated the country life but if it meant being closer to my Mom, so be it.
Minutes felt like hours as my eyes grew heavy. At this point I felt as if I was stone cold sober. With everything that happened today I was exhausted and weary despite that.
I can barely keep my head up as I continue down the dirt road.
My greatest fear comes true and I see the woman looking at me in the rear view mirror. She smiles for a while then finally speaks up, as if from the grave.
”You could have saved me J. Now I’m dead and it’s all your fault.”
”No, you’re not her. You can’t be.”
”Oh now you’re going to tell me what I can and cannot be?”
I try to speak but end up choking on my own words.
I start to cough as she says, “Shoulda came home JJ.”
She lets out an evil cackle as I scream out.
”No! No! No!”
On the third no I wake from my sleep to be blinded by a pair of lights.
Oh God, am I still dreaming?
A horn screeches out in the distance. It is headed head on at me.
I can’t be. But if this is real. I can die.”
After debating with myself over what is real and what is not, I swerve my car off the road and back onto it.
I look into my rear view mirror expecting to see the woman or at least the truck. All that remains is the fading tail lights of the truck.
I swipe the sweat off my brow. Though I did not know whether I was awake or asleep, I slammed the gas peddle to the floor.
In my peripherals I saw dirt being kicked up off the sides of my truck. It scared me to drive this fast on the dirt road but I was close to home and my mother was not going to become that woman on my watch.
I swerve into the parallel road leading to my house. Once I get closer I see the lights are still on in the horizon.
I do not slow my pace at all and continue to race up the street leading to my driveway. Once I arrive in the driveway. I leave the car running and jump out onto the dirt.
My dog, Hunter, barks his head off as I sprint to the front door of the house. Once I am in front of it, I produce my keys and fumble around with them due to my trembling fingertips.
The shaking gets so bad in fact I drop my keys in front of me. I hastily bend over and lift them up by the house key.
Maybe someone is looking out for me.
I shove the key into the knob and rip open the door, tossing it to the side. It bangs against the wall as I start up the stairs.
Fearing the worst I call out, “Mom!”
It echoes back to me like some sort of wicked mockery. As I near the top, I trip and fall onto the steps. I hold a hand on my brow and notice it is bleeding.
I wipe the blood on my jeans and am able to slowly rise to my feet.
I drunkenly stumble my first few steps but find my footing and sprint over to my Mother’s closed bedroom door.
I throw it open. I feel another attack coming on so I hold my hand against my chest and bend over. I feel my heart threatening to burst.
I hear a sound in the background unlike the one in my terrible visions.
“What is it JJ?”
I lift my head up to see my mother in bed. Now sitting up against her wall of pillows.
Tears start to stream down my face but I find the strength to rush to the side of her and pick her up in my arms.
”I thought I lost you.”
She rubs my back reassuringly as I continue to cry.
”Awe, I’m sorry honey. What made you think that?”
She takes a whiff then pushes me back with her pencil thin arms
“Have you been drinking?”
I start to wipe away my tears.
”Yeah Mom. I don’t want to lie to you anymore.”
She holds out her arms.
I saunter over to her and feel my legs about to give out.
“Don’t worry so much about me, okay? I’ll be alright. I just worry about you too. You know your father had asthma too and he would get the worst attacks when he drank.”
I unconsciously let go of her and step back.
”I’m sorry. I had too much to drink and I had these horrible nightmares of you.“
She tries to stand up, but only lets out a moan of pain.
She gesticulates with both her arms.
I walk over to the side of her bed and sit down.
“Hey, look at me.”
I lift my head up and turn to her.
”I love you and am proud of you no matter what. Just promise me you’re done with the drinking. It doesn’t fix a thing. Only makes it worse.”
“I promise Mom…”
- Matt Gorrell (creator of mattgorrell.com)