Bright and Lively

The traffic light turns yellow. I wonder if I would’ve gunned it if the small white Toyota truck in front of me hadn’t stopped. I know the light to be interminably long and begin to fiddle with the dial. When I look up the glint of her ring, bright and lively, flashes in my eye for an instant. She is admiring it while lovingly scratching the back of his head. They talk, laugh, smile, and talk some more, all the while, her eyes wavering between his and the ring. Newlyweds, maybe just engaged, I conclude. A lifetime in front of them; picket fence, kids, another car, maybe even a mini-van to go with the dog they’ve probably already acquired in an effort to satisfy the nesting instinct until the first baby comes: a child that will no doubt reflect the best qualities of each. Mortgage, family vacations, recitals, ball games, Christmas performances, and furtive glances exchanged even in church as proof the home fires continue to burn.

The talk becomes animated and takes on a decidedly different tone even if I can’t hear a word. Her hand retreats, and soon she begins tugging at her waist - seatbelt perhaps? He slams his hand on the steering wheel repeatedly and glares at her. Still tugging, she shouts back, the veins in her pale neck protruding in earnest. The light turns green, and he angrily punches the pedal with his foot. They are broadsided in front of me: the collision a violent cacophony of glass, steel, rubber, flesh. And then, except for my radio, it is silent. Steam comes from under the hood of the car that speared the white truck. I look fore and aft and find I am the sole witness to this event. The car’s elderly driver slumps lifelessly over his steering wheel. The young man driving the truck is clearly beyond repair, a trickle of blood like strawberry syrup on vanilla ice cream marks his door. Her straightened arm, so white – too white, extends through the passenger window, and as I approach I see the ring fall from her hand. It bounces off the asphalt in seemingly slow motion.

She is not conscious, but still breathing, and I rifle through my pockets for my cell phone, dialing 911 in haste. I am told paramedics are en route. By the time they arrive I know she is not long for this world, and I think of her family as well as his. I think of their parents and the awkward and inevitable interaction at a hospital or morgue under lights that distort the pallor of living and dead alike. I think of the days and weeks they will endure until the beginning of the first film that will become a scab develops. There is little I can spare them. Only that when the paramedics wheel the gurney carrying this poor woman into the hospital, the ring on her left hand will remain bright and lively.

by Michael Twist


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