My sin came to me as a woman in my dreams before dawn this morning. The vision started in a diner. I was waiting for her next to the window in a booth. I was sipping my coffee. She approached and I offered her a seat across from me. She missed the facade that was me and I wanted what she would never be. We sat across from one another in bashful silence for a while, hearts thundering. I gazed on her beauty feeling the sweet stabs of hope and the real pain she had caused. Her familiar smile finally broke upon her face; the smile reminds me of a young Cher – before plastic. It was bitter sweet, one of regret and hope. She reached across to take my hand. She was warm and inviting. A million memories flashed through my mind. She knew things were ending.
I told her that I loved her, but that it was in all the wrong ways. She gave a knowing nod and rubbed my hand in sorrow. She got stuffy, tears brimming, eyes glistening …those beautiful amber eyes glowing like a hearth under a brunette roof. I had known her for many years; when she was young her face soft and innocent. Now her features had those angular turns of a maturing woman, her beauty different but not diminished. I wondered how she endured the life I gave her.
She told me that she loved me too. I could tell she meant it, or wanted to mean it. She said the words as if striking a wet match, hopeful yet un-ignited. I told her I was sorry for contributing to her problem, leading her on and on. I wanted to let go for so long. Being so committed, I had sustained her illusions of eternal life with me. I wanted to save her. She was my secret friend, the one I was ashamed of, in many ways a authentic friend. I told her I knew better than to ever get involved, that our mutual weaknesses had led us to self-destruction of the soul. But, that I had found a door out.
Her eyes got wide for a moment. She knew what I was talking about. I had been bringing it up a lot lately.
She looked out the window into the gray morning, while still gripping my hand, eyes dripping tears. She was even making me cry. She said as she blinked, “I’m a Christian too,” as if trying to flip on a dead light bulb, as if by magic it would suddenly come on, but the dismay returning anew, the sadness fresh in her heart.
“That is a nice lie Satan,” I said quietly. She broke up like a Picasso, the shards disappeared as smoke in the wind. My hand was cold. I looked around. Then I saw her reappear outside the window looking in, her palm against the glass. I put my hand to hers and she smiled that beautiful bittersweet smile. She mouthed goodbye. I said that I would forget her…every day of my life. Then she faded into the gray and gathering crowd to wander among the other ghosts of my soul; the cloaks, and passes I gave as cover to the darkness in me.
I turned to see the waitress staring at me. She asked, “What were you looking at?”
“I used to not know.”
Many years ago, my dad and I nearly were killed together.
My dad is a quiet and unassuming man. He speaks with an east Texas accent that’s so thick; to understand him you need to be from around here. He is not outspoken. He has never been fashion conscious. He worked hard all his life and retired from Kraft Foods. He doesn’t care what kind of car you drive. He rarely understands irony; everything is what it is. He is kind and courteous. He won’t even hang up on a telemarketer. He’ll patiently listen and politely say, “Nah, we ain’t inersted. Thank ya.” He is funny. He can say the most hilarious things…quietly. People will say, “Your dad is so quiet …and funny.” He is the master of the Art of Understatement. It’s natural. It’s not something he works on.
The fateful day occurred after I had car trouble about fifteen miles away from home. I called him to come get me. When he picked me up, we decided we’d fix the problem the next day…something to do with parts. That evening it snowed, a lot. Yeah, snowing in Texas. No big deal but the snow began to melt. The roads were slushy. Then an ice storm hit early the next morning. I can’t remember why but it was very important to get my car. My dad owned a faithful Nissan 200SX at the time, a feather light car. He cranked it, warmed it up, breath steaming out of our noses and mouths. We headed out on our date with destiny. The road looked like the glaze on a donut. It was well below freezing. Everything was crunchy, almost no traction. We had a few narrow escapes but dad adjusted. I was feeling pretty confident and so was he so we kept going. I don’t care where you’re from no one can drive well on ice if you don’t have chains on the tires. But we had to go.
As I said, dad is a quiet man. We didn’t say a thing to each other. That’s just the way he is. It has nothing to do with mood. Gloves on, tucked deep in our coats, eyes fixed on the road and oncoming cars, silent and determined to accomplish this now heroic mission. Then we saw it, a gigantic semi truck plowing down the road toward us. Ice and snow billowed out from under the tires, as it seemed to build speed. Then it happened, for no apparent reason the little Nissan suddenly went sideways in the road then swerved into the path of the oncoming bringer of death on eighteen wheels. I was in the passenger’s seat, and angled at the bazillion pounds of encroaching truck. I vaguely remember my dad fighting with the wheel on the periphery of my consciousness. I was completely helpless. The “MAC” emblem on the front of the truck grew. While this was happening I froze, you can’t move when death is coming that fast. Although pointless, I braced for impact. I always wondered if that truck driver saw me as I contemplated the doom, sheer terror on my face. If dad didn’t correct this situation that monster would T-Bone the 200SX. In a nanosecond, I would be splattered all over the radiator like a hopeless insect.
Just before impact, a hand seemed to reach down out of heaven and correct the careening Nissan. We suddenly went back into the correct lane as the eighteen-wheeler zoomed past, chunks of snow showering the car. I thought I would need a change of underwear and I began to hyperventilate, but angels were singing in my head. Dad never missed a beat. He just looked straight ahead. In case I missed it, he let me know as if he had avoided nothing more than a stray dog in the road and said, “I bet we had ‘at feller in ‘at truck purty sceerd.”
I said, “Yep.”