The following is a work of fiction inspired by Raymond Carver, Rust Hills, and the Foo Fighters.
"You believe there's something else
To relieve your emptiness
And you dream about yourself,
And you bleed and breathe the air,
And it's on, and on, and on, and on, and on...
I just kind of died for you,
You just kinda stared at me,
We will always have that chance,
We can do this one more time..."
I don't like who I am. At least, not anymore. I always said the best measure of a person, the best way to judge another's worth, is according to what they do. Not what they say, not how they act when they are pretending, but what they actually do.
All the rest is bullshit.
And I always used to know exactly who I was, and therefore I could always believe that kind of easy horseshit with complete conviction.
And then I killed a kid. And everything that once came so easy stopped.
Now, I didn't a kill a specific kid, my own kid, or anything like that. I killed someone else's kid. Some random kid, who had a God-only-knows future before our paths crossed. That was the thing I did.
I don't even know whose kid I killed. I don't even know her name, I don't know her folks' name. What bothers me most isn't her name, though. Everyone has a name. The most superficial, least significant thing you can know about a person ends up being their name. Who actually gives a fuck about names?
What bothers me is I don't know who she was.
What happened was this. I was in Silicon Valley on travel having a work dinner. I didn't drink too much, I never do. I had 3 glasses of wine over 3 hours of dinner with with a brandy nightcap. We settled up, and I took off.
I put some tunes on for my drive, like I always do. Picked Foo Fighters, always a good way to go home, and eventually I came left off the expressway and down the road to my hotel, past the lone gas station that holds vigil over that particular exit.
No one's ever on that road, much less at night, but the kid came flying out on her bike, black hair trailing behind her, just as I was passing the station. I kissed the brakes and swerved left, and settled out after her turn. Then, for awhile, I was just listening to the Foo Fighters and watching her ride, one-handed, with a bundle under her left arm.
Eventually I passed her.
I then came to the red light, the one that demarcates the drag my hotel sits on. I rolled down the window, like I always do when I'm close to home. I lit up a smoke, like I always do at red lights, and waited until it turned green. It did, and I turned left, like I always do at that light.
'Aurora' came on just then, and I reached over to turn it up, like I always do when a good tune starts playing. I guess I looked at the knob for too long, because when I looked back up, instead of seeing the open road like I always do, I saw that the girl with the black hair was in front of me, peddling her bike.
But I was coming too fast, I just saw black hair flying back at me. I hit the brakes, too late, I saw my front bumper hit her back tire with force and I had a brief moment to wonder how in the hell she got to the middle of the road in front of me as my car started spinning out.
I skidded but she flew, and her bundle skipped, scattered, and burst across the roadway. I finally came to a cock-eyed stop, and got out.
Bike parts and beer cans were splayed across the road. I felt something wet on my leg and realized it was beer shooting out of a tallboy that was spinning in place on the street.
I walked up to her.
Her beautiful face belied her years. The long black hair splayed around doe eyes and bronze skin. She couldn't have been older than 12.
A piece of her skull was missing. She was breathing rapidly, too rapidly, what we call panting when a dog does it. Blood was dripping out, I started looking around for something, maybe the missing piece of her head, something, but just stood there looking like I always do, looking for something that wasn't there.
She just laid there panting and I stood there looking all over the road for something that wasn't there.
I called 911 on my cell and said 'There's been a terrible accident, get here fast' and gave the location.
I knelt down and took her hand, and she clutched back at my hand. She looked up at me, panting. I said 'Everything's gonna be alright' like I always do. I said "Hang on, they're on their way."
She kept looking at me with those eyes, panting, but she couldn't keep focus and then her breathing strained and then slowed. She coughed a few times, and then her eyes lost focus and she didn't breathe anymore.
Her hand went slack.
I looked around again at the road, like I always do. I listened. I looked around at the sky, like I always do. I looked and listened for something, but it wasn't there. Nothing was there, just some busted beer cans she bought for whomever she was peddling home to.
I don't remember making a any kind of formal decision, I never do, I just left. I skipped. Fight or flight, and I flew the coop. There was nothing I could do, nothing I could say. Endless ways to justify it as a sound decision. There always are.
But you are what you do. Not what you say, and not how you act when you are making believe. You are only what you do.
I looked but found nothing, I spoke nonsense, and then I left.
That is what I did, and therefore that is who I really am.
Maybe it's you, maybe it's Dan. Things aren't quite the way they should be. And now it seems Dan's peace of mind has come up for the bidding, and those that he respects and trusts must all have been just kidding. Dan's little world has lost control, but still it keeps on spinnin'...
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