atching myself die, I felt no pain, no emotion, no fear. The grisly scene of my death faded and grew hazier, as if a dense fog had rolled in across the Sound, obscuring my view. The fog grew whiter and more opaque. I witnessed a unique clarity of light, like sunlight refracted through a diamond. For an instant, instead of being blinded by the light, my vision was clearer than it had ever been.
My eyelids were heavy, the white noise of pavement clacking under the tires, lulling us me at the end of a long day. My spat with Maya still fresh in my mind, I knew I had been driving out of spite in order to join her and Calder on this family ski weekend, but I was determined to be the dutiful husband.
It was a clear night in February 2006, but construction for the upcoming 2010 Vancouver Olympics made the road treacherous. During a slowdown, I leaned my head back and closed my eyes for a few moments before a honk from behind jolted me into shifting gears and lurching on. I passed Horseshoe Bay and wound around steep hairpin turns in the dark, driving too fast, widening my eyes to keep them from drooping shut as the smooth hum of the car lulled me. I turned on the radio and fiddled with the tuner until I found a classic rock station playing Steely Dan’s Aja. I cranked it.
The traffic thinned until only the odd car sped by in the opposite direction. Transfixed by the white dividing line, my eyelids fluttered shut for the briefest second. A crucial second. I missed a sharp curve, veered left across the oncoming lane, and launched through a perfectly aligned gap in the guardrail, fate having its way with me. My eyes sprang open. The arc of my ineffective coffee, suspended in time, splattered like a Pollack painting against the windshield. The car tilted downward, Steely Dan’s Aja still blasting, …there’s no return…
The view of Howe Sound was particularly breathtaking. Tiny boats glowed against the black water. In the sky, a pale light of the crescent moon, …double helix in the sky tonight. A voice that didn’t sound like mine whispered “Oh fuck” just before the car made impact with the gnarled rocks of the coastline. The car rolled in deafening slow motion until it arrived at a precarious resting spot, teetering on the edge of the cliffside, fifty feet below the highway, a hundred feet above the water. The white edges of the waves crashed violently against the rock face. Still conscious, I couldn’t feel my legs but could see that they were crushed beneath the dash. Something warm dripped down my cheek. I tasted blood. Christ. This was bad. I thought about Maya and Calder. If I made it out of this alive, I would stop being such an asshole. God. One weekend in Whistler. Why did I make it into such a big deal?
“You’ve gotten yourself into quite a pickle here, J.J.” My father sat beside me in his Rolling Stones T-shirt.
“Dad? What are you doing here?”
“I told Calder to warn you.”
“He did warn me. How did he know? Am I going to die?”
“You’ve should’ve listened to your son, son.”
I yelled a dry, hoarse whisper. Shit. I was hosed. I wondered if anyone had seen me go off the road. Darkness prevailed.
I awoke to a man’s face leaning through the broken window, swinging slightly. I glanced toward where my father had been sitting, but he was gone.
“Hey buddy! Wake up! That’s it.” I forced my eyes open. Pain constricted the movement of my legs, forcing a moan from deep in my chest. He looked away for a second and shouted, “He’s conscious!” Turning back to me he said, “Quite a mess you’ve found yourself in here. What’s your name?”
“Jay,” I croaked.
“OK, Jay. We’re just going to try and get a line hooked up to the car and then we’ll get you outta here, K?” I managed another nod.
“Just don’t move. We’re going to get you—” The car lurched another few inches, tilting now at a dizzying angle. “Whoa!” The firefighter swung free, his arms waving as he tried to regain balance and I realized he was suspended from above. He grabbed onto the door handle, leaning down to peer into the window.
“Don’t move, Jay. K? Just don’t move!”
“Tell my wife I love her,” I whispered.
“You’re going to be fine, Jay. We’ll get you secured. Don’t worry.”
“Tell her to remember the moon.”
“Remember what?” The car slipped another inch and I could only see his torso now. “I can’t hold it!” he yelled up to the crew.
“The moon!” I yelled as loudly as I could. The car slipped away with a slight grinding of metal against rock.
“Shiiiit!” I heard the man yell. I closed my eyes and braced for the impact. A wall of water slammed into me through what was left of the windshield. The car bobbed for a minute, hood down, my entire body submerged. I gasped from the cold and sucked air into my lungs. When the trunk filled with water, my beloved Beamer and I plunged through the depths of black until my giant lead boot touched the sea bottom silently in a velvet nap of sand. My final breath escaped in tiny bubbles, jewels of iridescent light that rose, dancing languidly to the surface.
Gaping mouth, empty eyes, floating hair, legs crushed into my giant steel clamshell – I became a grisly sea anemone. I floated underwater, looking down on my lifeless body, limp hands and hair flowing with the current, my skin glowing an alien greenish-yellow hue.
A shape began to form in a fog – a body pushed against a thin layer of latex. A figure emerged through it, someone familiar.
“Hey J.J. Welcome home.”
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish