Life Goggles

Chapter 1, Verse 3: May 3, 2002

Posted in Life by rreynolds2186 on July 1, 2010

A stillness. A beat. Was I breathing? Was it real? The air is heavy; my chest rises and falls slowly accentuated by the thumping of my heart. Bump-bump. Bump-bump. Everything has changed. The phone is cold in my left hand, my eyes fixated on a tacky picture on the wall. What if I hadn’t picked up the phone? Would it have all gone away? Unbelievable.

“Adam’s dead,” I said. But the words fell flat. How do you say something like that with the proper tone and emotion? It is possible to do such a thing? Is there a right way to say those words?

“What?” my friend asked in disbelief.

“Yeah, I dunno. Dad just said that there was an accident. Adam is gone.”

And that was it. The silence was now heavy, like a humid August afternoon in the Bible Belt. Unbearable. Inescapable. My mind can’t grasp the words and phrases that I try putting together to form a cohesive sentence.

I tell my friend that I am leaving and get in my car. Do I go home? Do I drive aimlessly in circles until I run out of gas? I put a CD into the disk player; I can’t recall which one though. This is odd considering that I often recall the soundtrack to important life events. But not this time.

“Should I do it?” “No, don’t.” “Do it.” “Don’t.” “What could hurt?” “Stay away. Far, far away.”

My mind fights a battle. The debate is over whether or not I should drive up through the local park. Kyle’s house is right next to the park. All of this still hasn’t registered. What was I doing the exact moment Adam left this Earth? Taking life for granted? Enjoying my Friday evening blissfully unaware that an old friend of mine was taking his last breaths, thinking his last thoughts, belting out his last chuckles? And then….

There it was. Adam’s house. Cars lining the street, stretching for what seemed like a mile. Proof. If I was in denial previously, this was a shock to the system. This was reality screaming at me that what had happened was real and that life from this point forward would be changed. Clichés dashed through my skull.

“This can’t happen to me.”

“This doesn’t happen to a town like ours.”

“He’s too young. His whole life was ahead of him.”

“This is all just a misunderstanding. There must be something else. A birthday party? Yeah, that’s it. It’s someone’s birthday. Exactly.”

But no. Logic stupidly had to step in, like a father sternly, yet gently correcting a child. “Ryan, you know what has happened. There’s no denial here, only truth.”

Tears, screaming, yelling. Pure and guttural; it’s not pretty. I punch the steering wheel. And again. And again. And again. A left-right combo, an upper cut. There’s no outlet that can release the anger and pain that I’m feeling; that so many others in our small town were feeling. Oh God, it’s real. How? Why? Wha…questions and incomplete thoughts.

I slowly drive home, continuing through the park, up and over the hills and to the stop sign. I turn onto the main road and like a mindless zombie I stare ahead, only aware enough that I don’t veer off the road. Finally, I pull into my drive way and stare at the front door. The lights are on; life, family…it’s all behind that door and those curtains. My safe haven. But nothing feels safe anymore, not even remotely close. I’m vulnerable, my guard is down. I’m ripe for the picking.

I open the door and Mom and Dad are awaiting my arrival. They knew I was coming but what went through their mind while waiting? Their thoughts are surely as garbled as mine are. How do you council your son who has just lost a friend? You are 16 years old for crying out loud. This doesn’t, no, this shouldn’t happen to 16 year olds. This is supposed to happen to people who have lived 8, 9, 10 decades. People who have married and witnessed their children marry and have kids who have kids continuing the circle of life. But 16 year olds? All that untapped potential. All those life events that they won’t get to experience, all of those important times that their parents dreamed up for them that are now just question marks. Gone. Unfair.

I look at my parents, they look back at me. Who talks first? What can you say? At this point the mind is fuzzy. The next several minutes are a blur of light discussion and small talk. It’s more that we’re trying to keep the mood a bit light, to ease up on the heaviness of the upcoming days with the visitations and the funerals, the grieving, the mourning.

The phone rings. And rings. And rings. People calling to check on us, on me. People calling with more information about the accident and the others that were involved in the same wreck. Three were confirmed dead, one was life-lined to the hospital and in serious condition. Two others, a boyfriend and girlfriend, were hurt and in shock, but they had a chance. All were younger than 18. Some were weeks away from high school graduation. One was an exchange student thousands of miles from home.

I sat on the couch staring at the TV. I can’t tell you what’s on. It doesn’t register. It could have been something as ridiculous at “7th Heaven” but I didn’t care. It was all static. The world around me was rotating as I stayed stationary. And then like a bag of concrete being dropped on my chest, it hit. A storm, a hurricane of emotion that came crashing in waves. Sadness, followed by denial, followed by anger. I go outside, out the front door, into the garage. What can I break? What can I punch?

All I could find was a hard, plastic, yellow wiffle ball bat. Yes, a wiffle ball bat. I storm out the garage, walking quick, hard paces, seething underneath by breath. Am I deranged? Am I psychotic? I find the nearest solid object, a tree, and start whaling away with the wiffle ball bat on the trunk of the tree.

Whack! Whack! Whack! Am I disturbing the neighbors? Who cares? Seriously. Whack! Whack! Whack! I can feel the hard plastic weakening. This isn’t some sort of pansy wiffle ball bat. This is apparently the real deal. Whack! Whack! Wha–the plastic splits and shatters. The bat breaks off at the handle sending plastic shards hurtling across the yard and the barrel of the bat flying off into the darkness. I’ve been crying but I haven’t noticed until now.

In all of this chaos, I didn’t notice Dad standing nearby. He understood. It may have been ridiculous that his son took out his anger on the wiffle ball bat of all things but at least it wasn’t a window or a wall. Those repairs cost money; no one gives a crap about a wiffle ball bat.

He quietly, cautiously reminds me that it’s late and neighbors could be settling down for the evening. He was right. But it had to be done. Break bat first and ask questions later.

We walk around the front of the house and sit on the front stoop. The next day, May 4th, we were scheduled to go to a St. Louis Cardinals game.

“Do you still want to go” Dad asks.

After thinking for a second or two, I reply, “I do. I’ve gotta get my mind off of this.”

We talk more about what was going through my mind, through his mind. There’s disbelief all around.

And for the first time in my life, I question God and why He did this. I was angry at Him. It was his fault. I didn’t know it at the time, but this would be the beginning of a long, internal war of my faith, my spirituality, my logic.

The night of May 3, 2002 changed everything for me, for many others. It was the night I felt, rather, I knew that God abandoned me. It was the night that my naïve way of thinking was jolted from my system at the expense of a friend’s life. Everything changed.

I felt sick. I felt dizzy. I felt drowsy. I lay down in bed, staring at the ceiling. My eyes closed, but I can’t get out of my own mind. It’s a new world. As May 3rd ended, so did my life before it. What mattered before no longer did. Oh God…what do I do? I drift to sleep, not knowing what to find when I wake up the next day.

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