A Split Second This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

February 27, 2010
Shades of green flash past my eyes, its raining. Not that I’m surprised, its always raining. I’m sitting in the passenger seat of my mom’s Dodge Neon. The static on the radio is beginning to annoy me, its been stuck on the same channel since we bought it. I wrinkle my nose at the stench of cigarettes being stirred up steadily by the heater. Its surprising that I’m not used to the smell by now, but I can’t stomach it anymore. The thought of smoking again makes me nauseous. The odor makes me look down at my nicotine stained fingers, remembering where a cigarette used to sit.

My mom looks over at me nervously from the corner of her eyes, gripping the steering wheel tighter. I pretend not to notice, but I can feel her bloodshot eyes on me, cornering me. Like she did to get me to come in the first place. I become fascinated with the window, turning away from my mother. We stop at a red light and she opens her mouth to say something, but closes it again, thinking better of it. I wonder what ever happened to us; we used to be so close. I remember though, I know exactly what happened.

I scratch the scar running from my left elbow to my wrist. I remember where that came from too. I recall every second of it. How I let things get so out of hand still amazes me. I want to apologize to her again, but my throat goes dry. My stomach ties in knots as I begin to think about the past year. I wonder how it could have gone so wrong in the matter of just 365 days.

The knots tighten as I realize the next turn is our stop. It takes all I have left not to open the door and jump out. I glance in the rearview mirror, I hate who I am. I hate what I did. My mom makes the turn and pulls into a space in the lot near the back. I unbuckle my seatbelt, staring at the silver car facing ours. It looks like the one we used to have. My mom waits until I’m ready. Slowly, I open the door and pull myself out of the car, she follows suit, coming around to my side of the car. She tries to look at me, but I can’t bring myself to meet her grieving eyes, a lump rises in my throat.

I can’t do this.

My feet take steps without my consent and I’m pushed forward, following my mother to the front of the building, my heart pounding. She holds the door open for me when we reach the entrance. I fight to hold back the tears threatening to spill over, but I know they’ll come. The lump in my throat grows until I silently gasp for air.

I need to get out of here.

My mom puts her hand on my shoulder, the tears run down my face, I no longer try to stop them. She leads me through another set of doors. Rows of chairs are set up, a handful of people are scattered around the room. I recognize every face. In the front, a casket sits open, bouquets of flowers and pictures of a young boy surround it. I choke back the sobs.

The service begins, the same pastor that Confirmed me begins to speak. “We are gathered here on this day…” I don’t hear the rest of his speech. I look over at my mom, her eyes and cheeks glisten with fresh tears. My mind numbs before I lose the last shred of control I have.

The pastor steps down from the podium and we’re invited to say a prayer.

My mother and I go up first. She puts her head on the ledge of the casket and weeps. A small boy lays in the casket, his usually unruly blond hair is combed and he’s wearing the same suit he wore to our family reunion. I remember because he didn’t take it off for a week. I too am weeping. My mom kisses his forehead and rushes into my step-dad’s arms. I kneel down on the ground beside the casket.

Dear God…

I hear tires screeching. My foot fights against the brake, but the car skids on. Lights flash, blinding me. I can only hear his screams. The steering wheel locks, no longer am I in control of the car. We crash through the guard rail and plunge into the icy river water. I struggle to get out of the car, my lungs search for air. I fight with the door until it opens and break the surface, taking shallow breaths. I dive under again, desperately trying to save him. I drag his limp body to a bank and start performing CPR, willing him to live. I hear the sirens on the bridge, paramedics pull me off of his cold body, taking my place in the attempt to save his life. I’m screaming now, doctors wrap blankets around me and fuss with my left arm.

This is all my fault.

A crowd of people watch from the bridge as my brother dies.

It was raining that night too.


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