Copyright 2008 by Julia Wesson
It had been an average night out. Well, as average as the first night after splitting up with your wife could possibly be. I’d taken the girls out for ice cream and they were bouncing around and giggling in the backseat on the ride home. Suddenly, the world felt as if it were lurching forward. I collided with a car coming toward me.
I hadn’t realized that Jessie and Erika, my two twin daughters, were not wearing their seatbelts. They fly through the windshield, and shattering glass and blood obstructs my vision. High-pitched screams feel as if they are piercing my eardrums.
Suddenly there is only one scream, and then darkness takes over. I am in my bed, sweat dripping from every pore of my body. It had been a nightmare so vivid it seemed as if it had actually occurred. I felt the pain of the accident, the glass was like daggers. I felt the panic taking hold of my heart.
Jessie and Erika, awakened by my yelling, stumble into my room, each clutching a stuffed teddy bear.
“It’s okay,” I assure them, my voice a little shaky. “Daddy’s okay. And so are his two favorite little girls.”
They crawl into my king-sized bed, one on either side of me. They lay their heads on my newly-formed beer belly, their long, pale blonde hair falling over its sides. Within minutes, their breathing falls into a steady rhythm and they are asleep once again. I am so disturbed by the dream that I cannot drift back off to sleep, and I absent-mindedly twirl a lock of Jessie’s hair.
It is a Monday, and I am up bright and early to take the girls to school.
“Have a good day at school, girls!” I say as they hop out of my new minivan, wearing matching blue jumpers and bubblegum-pink backpacks. I watch them walk off to their third grade class before pulling away.
I go straight home, as I had been doing for the past month since Miranda left me. I was fired from my job at the orphanage, and upon learning she walked right out, leaving me and the girls on our own.
I pull into the driveway and get the mail before going inside. As I expect, the mailbox is full of unpaid bill notices and letters from concerned relatives I haven’t seen in years. I gather them all up and throw them in the trash, and then I collapse on the torn-up red sofa in the living room.
I always have vivid dreams at night, but there was something strange about my nightmare. I had never felt so scared in my life over anything.
I think about it for a while, and I come to the conclusion that I should simply remember to be extra cautious about the girls putting on their seatbelts from now on. I smile, because I know I am a good dad.
Having made my one important decision for the day, I get up and grab a beer from the refrigerator. It’s only 10:30 in the morning, but it’s not like anyone knows anyway. I think about this when I’m on my sixth or seventh beer, and I cry a little.
At 2:40, I am at my daughters’ school waiting for them to come to the car. By this point, I have cleaned myself up, and while I may still be drunk, I’m no longer a drunken mess. I am in my comfort zone. I’m leaning against the minivan, twirling my car keys.
I feel someone’s presence nearby and I look up from my keys. The principal, Mr. Greer, is standing there.
“Good afternoon,” I tell him. I pray I don’t have beer breath. I try to remember if I brushed my teeth before getting in the car.
Something tells me I didn’t remember to because the man gives me a strange look.
“Mr. Scot, you can’t keep coming here,” the man says to me.
Strange. “Excuse me?”
“You can’t keep coming here,” he repeats, as if I hadn’t heard him.
What the hell is he talking about? “What’s your problem? I need to pick up my daughters. Why shouldn’t I be here?”
He gives me that look of bewilderment again, and it pushes me over the edge. I start shouting at him, a string of curses. I’m up in his face, so close that little specks of spit are hitting him. He’s frozen with shock, utterly speechless. It takes him a few moments, after I’m done screaming, to recover his speaking abilities.
“Mr. Scot,” he says softly, “I’m not quite sure what’s going on in your head, but your daughters passed away. They’ve been gone for months.”
Okay, so the man is crazy. Absolutely off the wall. I just saw Jessie and Erika this morning. I talked to them and I even kissed them goodbye. I chuckle a little. This man, the respected principal of a prestigious elementary school, is totally off his rocker. I laugh. Shortly I’m in hysterics and then I’m crying from laughing so hard because he’s a nut job.
And he’s the one giving me a weird look!
Mr. Greer just stands there, waiting for me to regain my composure. When I finally do, he says, “Sir, there’s written proof of what I’m talking about. For weeks it’s been in all the newspapers.” He hesitates momentarily. “If you don’t believe me, perhaps I could show you.”
I chuckle. Oh, the crazy fool. “Fine, show me.”
He turns on one heel and leads me into the building.
We get into his office, and he quickly slides into his rolling chair at his desk and logs on a computer. He goes online and types into a search engine “Scot accident, 2 children dead.” Soon enough, multiple results appear on the screen of articles covering an accident: a drunk driver, frontal collision, two girls without seatbelts.
Suddenly the nightmare comes back, except now, I am living it. I feel the pain, shards of glass digging into my body, flying in the air and crashing to the asphalt. I manage to tilt my head enough to see two tiny bodies, bent in ways no human is able to bend, blood pooling beneath them. I scream. I scream louder than I have ever screamed, longer than I have ever screamed. I scream until my throat is hoarse, until I can’t make a sound, and even then my mouth is still wide open. I am still trying to make a noise.
My wife has left me. I have no job. I am an alcoholic. I stopped talking to my family long ago. And now the only people left in the world that care about me are dead.
“Mr. Scot, Mr. Scot!” The principal has grabbed both of my shoulders. “Are you alright? Are you in pain? Please stop screaming!”
I am lying on the floor of his office and I’m crying. I feel like I’m in a daze. A little embarrassed, I rub the tears out of my eyes and stand up.
“Pardon me, sir, I’m fine now. Now,
if you’ll excuse me, I need to go pick up my daughters.”
in the subject line of the message
we won't know where to send it.)
Contact Julia Wesson