A short story about reason and loss.

Jonathan Atkins

            Impact: the force transmitted by a collision

    ‘Rest in Peace’ is not what I want written on my epitaph. Something great belongs on mine, something about how I impacted a tiny portion of this so called planet earth. Something about how I impacted her.
    She is so simple in every complicated way. Her hair moves her body in a back and fourth motion, her eyes stare deeply into yours, lovingly, but hard enough to see every detail about you. She understands the world in a way it will never understand her. She is herself in every way, and yet someone else in the same ways. She’s extraordinary and broken.
    January first of this year brought a different tone and lay a distorted melody on her like a thick blanket. It was the day I died. Since the perpetual motion of rolling off the freeway and battering my body around like a soft cloth spinning in the washing machine wasn’t enough to kill me, I had to lay in the hospital with my last hours spinning out, like I did, and watch her breakdown right in front of me. I’ve never seen anyone cry over me or even cry as much as she did. I was torn physically and emotionally and couldn’t stand to watch her breaking heart crack next to me. She lay with me until my final seconds ran out; the hour glass was glued to the table and, although she tried, there was no flipping it over; no reset button. I was gone, but she wasn’t ready to let me go.  I wasn’t ready to leave her yet.
    If a funeral is enough to bring out the emotion in a person, try a funeral about someone you consider literally sewn to your side. Someone you wear as skin. We made a collision with each other; we let our lives clash. I showed her I could be a part of her heart wrenching story and that I could make simple things just seem to disappear. A truck approached me at 120 miles per hour, with those seconds I could’ve thought about family and life, instead I thought about how she was supposed to be right next to me in this car. How did I know?

    Her purpose was to fix me and she did her part, but if she only knew my purposes effect. By saving a life I give one away.

            Impact: a strong effect

    From the moment I looked in her eyes ‘Impact’ was the word hidden deep inside mine. Impact this slightly broken and abused heart, impact this hurricane by finding it’s eye, bringing her to the center and giving her balance; if balance is possible. The hurricane, however, was her father. There are two types of fathers in this world: those who really care and those who are just there. Unfortunately her father wasn’t even there. It’s not that he was always out, it’s not that he was drinking or having sex with anyone he could; it’s that he truly didn’t care. I’m not just taking this from her words, I witnessed it.
    She came crying home one day. Scratch that. Several times she came crying home and this legally titled father had felt not the single effect of emotion for her. If a true father can impact a daughter, he would be able to do so with the simplest, softest hug he could give; in essence giving a positive effect, but all he gave was the opposite.
    I waited outside for her once and couldn’t help but see everything that went on. He just sat there. Like he was a rock. He absorbed her words just to let the sink into the rotting ground. Nothing would grow out of it, not then. I saw her frantically moving back and forth with the fear in her worn down face.  She was hurting and I was determined to give her the best night ever.
    I surprised her, she didn’t think there was this side to me, the side that loved bubble gum ice cream, nice walks by the beach, and laying down, watching stars. Waiting. She knew I was waiting for something significant. I could see she was waiting for me to tell her what it was.
    An effect can be a chain of thoughts or actions, one leading to the other, and if a father truly understands the idea behind the word ‘father’ he would know exactly the effect he should give. It didn’t matter if it was a prom night, a recent break up, or just a lazy Saturday, his effect was always the same. “That’s nice dear,” “go cry in your room or something, let it out, you’re just a typical teenager,” “You think your mom would care?” Positive effects lead to a happier her and with her leaving my arms from an atmosphere she enjoyed into a world where everything automatically falls into arguments and hiding between four symmetrical walls, then everything I did for her was contradicted with negativity.
    I was the closest thing to a father she had and with the death of a mother a father was all she really needed.

            Impact: the impression of one thing on another

    It wasn’t sudden, but it would’ve been better if it was. I met her four weeks before her mother died, she was in our school before I was even there, but I never took time to know her; from simple observations over the years even I noticed something different about the way she walked one week, the way she smiled, the way she wore her innocence. This was the first time I approached her, February fourth. She didn’t know me, and I didn’t know her, so I figured it would be a strange thing to ask her to open up for me.
    I had to make my first impressions friendly and I did exactly that. “Could you help me on this math question? I don’t really understand.” Cheesy, I know, but I really didn’t understand it and she was really more of a distraction than a helper. She did show me the formulas, she did show what to do, but the real formula I needed to know was how to read her. She’s different; unreadable and untouched and so innocent and it showed, it was obvious. She was something spectacular contained between soft skin. Hidden behind layer upon layer of organs was her heart. It was aching.
    I believe in first sight, but this took time. Started with simple math class chatter and we eventually became the best of friends. She never really told me much about her family and I had only met them twice, but when she called me crying, I grieved over her mother too.
    First impressions are a key thing in a relationship, and her mother gave a pretty good first impression for me, as I did for her daughter. If life is numbered in friends would it not make sense to have quality over quantity? I was myself when we really got to know each other. As was she. As was her mother. The quality of her love showed that the quality of her mother was there. She was loved by her mom. Loved till every last breath could no longer occupy the space her moms love did.
    I sat there in a pew with the thought that somewhere a few pews up she was crying till her tears ran dry. Crying till her mom would rise from her coffin and give her one last hug. I gave her that hug she was waiting for. In that moment she knew I was a true friend. In that moment I brought a simple love. I made the right impression. I could never come close to the impact her mom made, but the impression I made was just enough.

            Impact: To pack firmly together

    University is a big step forward in life. That’s exactly where she was headed. I knew there would be less ‘us’ but she was only a drive away. Only a call away. I helped her fold her things into neat piles and place them in her suit case. She was going to miss this place; her cotton coloured walls, red blankets, all her art, but she knew it would all be in the same place when she returned.
    She was scared to start a new life, happy to leave her fathers presence, but scared because she had no idea what to expect. I promised her I’d always be somewhere waiting for her call, I’d always be waiting in my car for those nights she wanted to forget. I’ll tell you something, when she walked away from me towards the doors to her new life, I cried. We had only been an item five months, but I was certain of her.
    Before it was time to take her I remember we tried to pack in as many memories as we could; we pretty much took a date each night. We made a scrap book and I had no idea we had taken that many pictures together over the year. We bonded, it was like we packed our lives together in a box to be opened when she returned. I loved her and only wanted what was best for her.
    I guess this wasn’t best for her.
    She was only four weeks into her year when she called me telling me that this was not her future. It wasn’t because she missed me or just wanted to come home, this path wasn’t the right one for her. She wanted to leave so we could unpack our lives together, so we could find the right path together. I’ll tell you something about right path’s; you get a feeling when it’s wrong.
    Like packing to find a new life, we only find ourselves packing to go back to the regular motion. Minds change and thoughts are rearranged, but you always know which path is right; which choice is right. Some would say it was wrong, some may say there was another way, but I felt It was right. I knew I’d be packing to leave it all behind.

            Impact: a forceful consequence


    Timing! Timing! Timing! The moment was filled with countdowns, drinking, and timing. Fights happen all the time and I knew something felt so terribly wrong about this evening. The consequences were inevitable, yet unpredictable. Five, she was walking away from me. Four, she had her mind set on exactly where she wanted to go. Three, an apology wasn’t going to cut it. Two, I had no way to explain myself. One, I needed to follow her. Happy new year, I guess.
    Actions come with a series of consequences. They are usually unwanted, or even unnecessary at times, but they show up to congratulate you, or kick you in the face. It was my fault, yes, I had let my anger slip out of me like I usually did. I guess she had no tolerance for it that night. She slipped into her car with the tears trickling from her cloudy eyes. I was only a minute or two behind her, but I took a faster route so I could stop her. I called her so many times, but could get no answer from her.
    Fear is something I hadn’t felt in a long time, but I showed so many signs of it. Visuals swept my mind over and over and I followed what it said. It lead me down roads, speeding, racing against time. Why did I need to beat time?
    I came onto the freeway and spotted her. I raced to get beside her. Fate stalled her car and she came to a halt. I slid out twenty feet In front of her and she looked right at me. I mouthed the words, “I love you,” and was struck. I felt myself rolling, but didn’t feel any pain. I blanked out.
    With my quick glances, I could see strangers gathering around me. Masks. I had a mask. It was so, so blurry and I could only keep my eyes open for so long before they forced themselves shut.
    I woke up to a hug, not just a hug, but a warm, loving, welcome-back hug. She had never been so happy in her life to see anyone, even though I was there all along. With each passing hour I slipped further and further away and any time I closed my eyes she would shake me again. Worry spilled into her voice as she cried every time she tried to awaken me. She held me so tightly and so closely and with my final ‘I love you,’ I closed my eyes for the last time.

© 2010 The Still Air