August 9, 2008
By Megan Giles, Farmingville, NY

Her eyes darted from the window that distorted the scene outside to the base of the seat in front of her. Her racing heart was almost audible to everyone in the car with her, although they weren’t paying attention to what was happening; it was normality. Lightning flashed in a bolt from the almost black mass of clouds to the ground. Thunder crashed a split second later like an explosion over the pounding of the rain against the roof of the small car, causing her heart to skip a beat.
The windshield wipers whipped furiously across the glass in a futile attempt to wipe the rain from sight. Water streamed down in torrents anyway.
The car sped up. Her heart hammered like a hummingbird’s wings in her chest and her palms sweated. Her fingers clenched tighter to the soft fabric backseat and her wide, frightened eyes darted back and forth once more. Window, seat. Wet, dry. Havoc, calm. Two opposites, contrasting greatly with each other.
Her breath came in short, quiet gasps that went unnoticed as lightning flashed and thunder cracked once more. Her chest felt tight, like someone was stretching plastic wrap over her mouth and nose. She struggled to catch her breath.
The sounds around her echoed in her head. The inside of the car looked like it was spinning in dizzy circles. She needed a paper bag desperately. The oxygen levels in her blood were spiraling out of control and she needed more carbon dioxide to regulate it before she fainted. Hyperventilating was bad enough.
She wanted so badly to put her head between her knees and stay in that position until it was safe to look again, but that wasn’t possible with non-members of her family present. She tried to keep her eyes cast downward, to not look at and notice how fast the car was going, how wet the roads were, how close to death she could be.
She wished he would slow down. Rain was falling so violently that the windshield wipers had no effect on visibility. Drops flew everywhere, mingling together with the spatter coming at the car from the wheels of the cars around theirs.
She jumped slightly, the sudden silence formed by driving under a bridge scaring her.
Tunnel vision was creeping in when it all stopped. The rain ceased quickly as they left the destructive storm behind them, yet she still shook. She was afraid to let go of the seat in fear that her hands would shake badly and someone would notice. There was no use making someone feel bad for petrifying her when they were miraculously still alive. She didn’t want anyone to feel bad about it.
Courage is the art of being the only one who knows you’re scared to death, as Earl Wilson said. She definitely had courage, then, since no one else knew of her severe panic attack. It happened every time she left her life in the hands of an angry speed demon. The amount of courage she had was dwindling, though it would be enough to finish the ride. But she didn’t think it was enough to last the drive home.

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