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It Sounds Like Thunder
I can still hear those bangs echo throughout the city, causing the bright lights to ingrain themselves into the eyeballs of the joyous holiday revelers below them. I can hear the hoots and claps ringing out as yet another fiery burst marks the sky, and the yells, hollers, the sizzling of fire as it burns down a wick.
Did you think, as you sloppily put the keys in the ignition, that you were in control? I suppose it’s one of those diminutive details that bores the audience, yet another element in that horribly longwinded tale your Grandpa drones on with. But I want to know. I demand it.
Did you know that the nights display managed to drown other sounds, distant sounds? The sound of drunk driving accidents, the sound of my mocha milkshake hitting the sidewalk, and pooling around my flip-flops? That was right before I screamed, if you were alert enough to hear it. I doubt you did, considering it wasn’t just the firecrackers that suffocated my shriek of horror. It was the sound of crunched metal, shattered glass, and the shrill cry of things twisted where they shouldn’t be.
There’s something about seeing an unstoppable collision about to happen before you. You can’t close your eyes, or turn your head, or do any of the things that would save you from the sight, and there is utterly nothing in the world that would block the sound of hissing, and breaking, and the hopeless, helpless feelings that come with it.
I knew it was your truck. I knew it was your truck just like I knew that you’d been out partying again, because I’ve seen you sneak out of your house before. I never said anything, thinking, I suppose, that it was none of my business. It was, apparently, my business to dial the dreaded three digits, and talk to a police operator. I wasn’t being too nosy then, but at that point it was really too late.
I’m sorry I didn’t go over there. I could lie and say that I was unable to think about it, that I was in shock and couldn’t bring myself to move. The truth is that I didn’t want to see your face all smashed in the airbag, I didn’t want to see you buckled into a shrunken, metal death box. But the thing I wanted to see even less than your mutilated body, was that of the poor soul in the other vehicle, latched to their seat and impossibly trapped in the same situation. Someone who didn’t know you’d been partying again. Maybe someone who didn’t drink at all.
I saw the crash sight the other day. I didn’t want to, but I did anyway. My feet just sort of led me there, and I paused, I guess to see if it was the same. It looked almost like a garden had grown over the place, in a failed attempt to mask the sorrow. Flowers, bright and beautiful everywhere. There was a white cross too, and it had the name “Janice” printed on it with big swoopy letters that made it look elegant. Janice must have been the girl in the other vehicle, or so I guessed.
They had one for you also, but I admit that it looked misplaced. I admit that I resented it too, because it didn’t seem right to have your name there all next to Janice’s like you two were both victims of some unpreventable accident. It didn’t seem right to stand there and make up stuff in my head about how your life was beautiful, how you loved bunny rabbits and fed the homeless, while Janice’s cross stood only a couple of feet from your own, farther away than her car had been when it was practically melted into your truck.
I guess that all sounds insensitive. Especially when you consider the family, but I couldn’t get the deafening sound of fireworks out of my head, nor the roaring of your truck just before impact. I couldn’t stop feeling the milkshake cold on my toes, or the scratchy fabric of my skirt pocket, pulling out my phone to dial 911 with trembling fingers. Since I didn’t have an audience I decided not to act as if you were a saint, and I left that wretched spot hoping that the name of Janice will speak for itself.
I left wondering if one day someone like you, who was just a little too tipsy to drive would slouch behind the wheel some starry night (but hey, they know what they’re doing, right?) I wonder if they’ll fly down the road like they’re the only ones on it. I wonder if they’ll feel it when they hit a tree, or a pole, or the car that got in their way. I wonder if it’ll be me, or my younger brother, or someone else that I love, left as another Janice on the side of the road, with just a bunch of flowers to keep us company.
It sounds like thunder, but then I guess you know that already. The truck zooming up faster then it should, more reckless then it should, like storm clouds forming in fast-forward. Lightning flashes (or in our case, fireworks) and that’s just before the great, tremendous bellow of thunder that resonates for a moment or two, before it’s gone completely. Then the clouds brood a moment in contemplative silence before unleashing the rain. It falls. And it falls. I guess now we both know that it falls for quite a while.