Mar 072011

by Natalie Grigson

I find myself sitting in the car, hands placed firmly on the steering wheel, knuckles white with pressure.  Put your hands at ten and two, a voice suddenly echoes in my head.  It is the voice of a woman named Patty, and in my memory she has no last name and she smells like Marlboro Lights.  I usually rest my hands at about 12 o’clock, both of them, almost stacked on top of each other; but right now as I sit in my car, the engine is off, the rain is pouring down, and I put my hands where I feel I can squeeze the hardest and do the most damage.  I’d say they’re at about three and nine.

After a few moments, I notice that tears are streaming down my cheeks, mocking the storm that rages outside of the car and within.  I am breathing as though I just finished a marathon, and my arms and back are tense as if they’re preparing for some sort of impact.

Suddenly the passenger door is pulled open and a man in a raincoat bends down and sticks his head in, and something about his movements reminds me of a movie I once saw.  I dwell on this thought just for a moment longer and decide I’ll Google it if the storm hasn’t knocked the power out, or if this man decides not to kill me.  His cheeks and nose are pink and each time he breathes, I can see warm air escaping his lungs, being forced out into the cold night, and then it vanishes, as though accepting its fate.  He squats down to meet my eyes and I can see that he has a gun underneath his coat.  I don’t feel as scared as I thought I would when I was little.  I remember when my dad was shot and I thought he must have been terrified, but now I change my mind; I’m still just pissed off.  I look at the man’s face and can see his lips moving and it suddenly occurs to me that he might be talking.

Are you alright? I continue to stare blankly at him, studying his features, which seem to become more exaggerated by the second.  His brow is furrowed in concern and his mouth is still moving, though at this point I can only hear the storm raging inside myself.  I think back to an hour before; her body looked as though it had made just as much of an impact on the ground as it did on her, but she certainly lost the fight.  Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.  My ears are ringing.  I think about how easily life can be taken away; and I think briefly about my dad and actually feel sad for a moment; but then I feel my hands tighten on the wheel and I am angry again.

Are you alright, ma’am? I look at the source of this interruption and realize the man staring at me is a cop.  He pulls out a flashlight and shines it unapologetically into my eyes, trying to see if there is anything there.  There isn’t.  He asks me to step out of the car and he’ll take me home and I wonder momentarily how a world so normal, a world with a mom, a dog, and home on Willow Street, could possibly still exist.  It seems so far from this place, from the blood-spattered pavement, and the screams that never escaped their mouths as they realized she was flying from 22 stories up.

I get out of the car and allow the man to drape a blanket around my shoulders as I climb into the backseat.  I know he is watching me, as if fearful I might break or self-combust at any moment, but I don’t care.  I watch the rain drops fall from the sky and wish I could warn them that the ground is not far below.  I watch them beat down on the windshield as we pull away and approach my street where I know my mom will be waiting on the porch, trying to figure out what to say, and crying because she doesn’t know what else to do.