A thick fog, not unusual to this coastal area, had settled down for the evening upon this city, making driving at the best of times challenging. In my case, with eyes blurred and now bloodshot, my fists having gripped the steering wheel, pressing in deep to the hard plastic beneath, and adrenaline racing through my body, it made driving near impossible.
After navigating the parking lot, and the long unlit, single lane road to the university ground’s main gate, I turned my van onto the two lane highway headed back to the city. I couldn’t see more than fifty feet in front of me, and is common on those old vehicles, my headlights barely illuminated what was directly in front of the driver, let alone the edges of the road. It made for a very eerie tunnel effect where the walls of the fog loomed up high above you from both sides of the road with another wall directly in front of you taunting you from all directions.
“Why?!” I slammed my fist against the steering wheel, unable to comprehend the night’s events, that were quickly spilling over into larger themes of my life.
“Why?!” I screamed to no-one.
Desperation crept upon me, like the closeup imagery of James Stewart’s famous portrayal of George Bailey, in “It’s a Wonderful Life”,and like George Bailey, I was slowly seeing no other way out from this mess.
As I rounded a corner, the fog crossed the oncoming lane, looking to box me in. I accelerated the vehicle, and gripping the wheel with both hands, I suddenly lurched the van to the left into the oncoming lane, although I had no intention of dragging some other poor soul down to hell with me, so I steered the van so it would drive right off the road – straight into the fog and into oblivion.
With a mournful wail my van had air time as it left the road, quickly smashing down on all four tires before lurching to a sudden stop. Dazed and confused, I pulled the transmission up to park, swung open my driver’s door and stumbled outside. The van had sputtered, the engine stalling out by the sudden impact. The headlights illuminated the area around the front of the van.
I had landed in a pull out area off the highway. The area was large enough to handle a couple of vehicles at most. There was one picnic table, which I had landed just beside. I staggered over and sat down on the bench, defeated, and looked around. With the exception of a little driveway back up to the highway, the area I was now sitting in was surrounded by scenic marshland. It dawned on me that a few feet either way and I would have landed, and consequently sunk, into this marsh.
I sat there sobbing, my van’s door hung open, and the headlights continued to try and pierce the thick fog to no avail.
I have no idea how long I sat there. Just long enough to die inside, I think.
I climbed back into my van and started the engine. It took a couple goes but it fired up, looking and sounding a bit battle worn. I backed up, turning the van around and made my way back up to the highway, turning left to get back onto the road toward home. This time, being drained of everything, I slowly drove along the empty highway to my bedroom in the basement of the family’s home I stayed at.
“Farewell has a sweet sound of reluctance. Good-by is short and final, a word with teeth sharp to bite through the string that ties past to the future.”
― John Steinbeck,