I had a dream last night I was driving home on a slicked-over, wet-from-rain backroad with no hardly any streetlights. I was going 45mph, slower than the highway traffic, blinking my brights at cars in the opposite lanes because they were silhouettes in the darkness without their lights. It seemed strange to me that they were driving without any light, but dreams are funny like that—things not making sense but somehow you agree with them in your mind.
There was a man on a motorcycle in the left lane far ahead of me. He pulled his bike to the shoulder then jumped off and sprinted across the highway. I flashed my brights at him, barely seeing his wet leather jacket and helmet in my windshield before he raced off to the opposite shoulder.
I squinted ahead to see a line of cars in the distance, stopped still, rainwater fierce against their hoods. There were no brake lights on, only darkness, and I tried slamming my brakes, but nothing happened.
I remembered back to driver’s ed., how you’re supposed to pump your brakes to keep from hydroplaning, to stay calm, to not swerve into the shoulder or another lane, to try to keep control of the wheel. There was a car in front of me, to the right. I swerved into the shoulder to avoid a head-on collision. I was swerving through cars, desperately pumping my brakes, trying to slow down.
But I couldn’t.
I was still flying forward at 40, then 35, then 30, wheels spinning so fast it felt like 100 mph. I was going to crash. I was going to hit into these cars in front of me, still and dark and unmoving. I was going to create a pileup. This was going to hurt. These were all the thoughts running in my head. I braced myself, pushed back against the steering wheel and held my breath.
I could hear the wind whipping past my ears as I crashed, as glass flew around me, as the windshield shattered and both shards and rain hit my face. I could feel my arms being thrown back, my chest getting pummeled by the steering wheel, my legs crushed by the force of the front of my car hitting the trunk of the van in front of me.
And then black.
And my dream-mind told myself I’d wake up in a hospital—another one of those crazy things about dreams, how sometimes you can control their direction—and I felt myself rising from some darkness, my body lifting itself up and out and into the light.
And I was in a hospital bed, my arms pinned back in slings, my legs numb and casted, my chest weighed down by heavy metal straps. And suddenly my eyes opened wide, I tried to speak, I tried to reach into my pocket to grab my phone to tell the nurse that she needed to call my father, my mother, the mother of my nanny kids who I needed to drive to school, my boss, who was expecting me to write, my friends, who I was supposed to eat dinner with.
And then, I woke. My arms over my head against the pillow, tingling with sleep. My legs crossed and numb. A heavy pillow pressed against my chest. Alive. Breathing.
And I wanted to cry because it all seemed so real—that moment, the spinning of the accident, the realization that I was alive but barely, that everything in my life was about to change. It felt so real, losing control, spinning, falling, dying.
And I wanted to pick up my phone and call my parents immediately, wanted to curl up in the arms of the boy I liked, wanted to drive over to my best friend’s apartment and lay next to her in her bed and talk to her about anything, just to hear her voice. I wanted to take back the last hour of sleep and undo the accident, the flashing lights, the fear that was still nagging in my chest.
I wanted to tell the people I love that I loved them, before it was too late.
Because how quickly could a single moment change your entire life? How quickly could a dream become reality? How quickly could you find yourself in a car, wheels spinning, glass and rain and wind flying around you in a blur?
How quickly could you leave this earth without being able to say goodbye?