During the crash, it was like there wasn’t any air. If she’d had time, and if she’d owned a journal, she would’ve written about it right there and then, in her journal. Not many things, being things that happened directly to her, were noteworthy. If they were worthy of remembering, then she very well wouldn’t need to write them down. This is what she thought on the matter. She made no physical record of the day Saphal asked her to dinner, seconds before she was going to ask him to a movie, or of her grandmother’s last birthday before the stroke, or of the one time she was actually cat-called by a construction worker, just like you hear about, and it was a woman, which is a memory she secretly holds very dearly.
These things she did not write about, on paper. But they were written, and written over again and again in her own mind, where only she could read them. She resembled some very important government asset in that way, the kind that in movies everyone is trying to get because the information on it is violently crucial and it can’t be found anywhere but that one flash drive, or disk, or android man who shouldn’t have developed a personality but unfortunately did, and is now technically the only person alive who knows exactly what he knows. She supposes that everyone is like that android man, except that the information that only they know is most probably not all that violently crucial.
Of course, regardless of whether or not she was the type of person to write anything down, she didn’t have time during the crash anyway. Because she was too busy crashing. The car was spinning all around her, like she was in a hamster ball. Only not quite like that, because she wasn’t making it spin, and in fact she didn’t seem to be moving at all.
It was like she, as the hamster, was floating in the middle, watching the interior of the car just twist all around her. Someone was playing a game of croquet with the hamster ball, knocking it all about, but she was only suspended somehow.
When the rear-view mirror spun up to meet here, for just a hair of a hair of a second, she saw Saphal in the reflection, behind her. He didn’t look well. His eyes were closed, the way they are when he gets a bad migraine and he’s waiting for it to pass. There was a piece of glass stuck into his right shoulder, but she didn’t see any blood. It was cold here, and he’d put on a thick jacket.
She might’ve called to him but, if you’ll remember, it was like there wasn’t any air. There was no air and there was no time. These two things she would remember.
That was, she was sure, the last time she’d ever see Saphal. The mirror spun out of her view and he spun out of her life. It was disappointing, to tell the truth. They’d had a good run together. They’d become a strong bipedal unit, living, eating, laughing, reading books and going on runs together. Coming all the way out here together, only to crash. You have to welcome adversity, learn to roll with the punches, adapt to change, is what her late grandmother believed. This crash was, to be sure, a very big punch.
Her grandmother did have cancer, and she swore it wouldn’t kill her. And she was right, because she died of a stroke. It is difficult to adapt to change when the change is from alive to not, especially when it’s immediate.
She, being the she in the crash and not she the grandmother, had thought about this greatly after her grandmother’s death. She was young and met the passing with anger, and questions. If the woman spent so much time preaching about perseverance, how did she suddenly lose? Or did she lose because she spent all of her time preaching instead of actually persevering? She loved to motivate but she also spent most of her time sitting in her favorite chair, even before the cancer. But maybe that wasn’t an issue, if her greatest passion was to both own and frequently utilize a favorite chair. Still, if she was content with that, then why would she not allow the people around her to be the same? It absolutely stinks of hypocrisy, but then again are grandmothers not immune to being hypocritical? It does seem harsh, to call the sweet old matriarch a hypocrite. You cannot simply question the moral integrity of that figurehead, of all people. Or can you? She (she in the crash) had seen a great many of those stories in which the final lesson, the final victory, was in questioning the ones who you would not expect to question. The king is the villain, the best friend is the “other guy,” the housecat is an ancient vengeful demon secretly reincarnating itself as the pets belonging to the ancestors of one man that accidentally cursed his bloodline centuries ago, that kind of thing. Perhaps her grandmother was wrong all along, and died before she could be confronted. In any case, she could ultimately not decide what to think on the matter, and it was left open for private debate and she was left not only sad but also rather frustrated and unsatisfied.
She continued to watch the car swirl around her, airless and timeless. The glove box opened and released its contents. Tickets, napkins, pamphlets burst out like doves at a wedding. One shoe, which moments before was on Saphal’s left foot, bounced and hurled about like a miniature version of the car itself (she imagined a hamster inside). A sticky note that said, in her father’s handwriting, to keep you safe on your travels, had been stuck to an aluminum baseball bat but was now fluttering about, searching for something else to stick to. And that reminded her of one last thing: The day she’d told her father that she, with Saphal, was finally going to leave.
It wasn’t the purest memory, as she was distracted by, well, crashing. She didn’t remember the sound of their voices, of her father’s or of her grandmother’s, who sat in her favorite chair and offered support to her son-in-law’s daughter. She couldn’t remember either, exactly right now, why she’d wanted to leave.
She’d lived with her father for a great long while. He’d have been all alone if she hadn’t. Well, not alone, her grandmother was there, but she didn’t much count because he hardly ever spoke to her, and it honestly wasn’t clear at times if he even remembered she was there. But for as long as it had been, she was still young, still had time for things other than caring for her caretakers. When Saphal had moved in with them it had gotten easier, but also harder because she was just adding more weight to her sedentary life. She just had more to lift and carry if she ever wanted to go somewhere else. That was in part how it felt, at least.
She didn’t ask her father if she could leave, she told him. It was important to do it this way because she knew she wouldn’t get a straight answer from him either way. Talking to him about anything important was like shaking a magic eight ball. You could never predict what answer was going to float into the little window and it always seemed baseless and random, or got stuck for long stretches of time on maybe. Of course the man had actual human thoughts and opinions but for as long as she’d known him he hadn’t been all too good at communicating when it came to anything more serious than which flavor ice cream best follows a dinner of chicken legs and mashed potatoes.
So it was best she tell him plainly rather than ask permission. That way, regardless of his answer, everyone knew the final decision. After his non-answer answer he’d left the house, left her standing in the living room, and her grandmother smiling sweetly and proud. The next morning she’d found the bat, sticky-noted, leaning against her driver’s side car door.
It was a while yet before Saphal and she left though, because declaring big decisions is much easier than enacting them. It was her grandmother’s stroke that finally pushed her out the door.
But she still, as she floated in the crash, couldn’t precisely remember what she’d left for, where she was going. It must have been a solid enough goal, to have convinced Saphal to tag along. But all she could remember was that she’d wanted to leave, and not why. She was driven, but now she’d lost track of the driver. All she could really remember was the insatiable desire to chase something, to hang a carrot in front of herself and run. Perhaps that had been the goal in and of itself. It wasn’t so hard to believe that she’d simply grown tired of sitting still. Adapt to change, her grandmother had said. And maybe she’d gone far too long without having any change to adapt to, and it was driving her crazy. That sounded about right. She was trying make some change, or find some.
But no, she wasn’t quite there, still had a feeling she didn’t quite remember. This argument was well and good, but there was a something she’d come looking for, she knew. And that was the last thought she had before Saphal’s left shoe struck her in the head, and she was out cold.