Jerry W Crews' character has reached an all-time low in his life, and starts looking for a way out - but fate will teach him a lesson.
I do remember it being a cold morning. A light frost was on my windshield as I prepared my commute to work. Instead of taking the time to scrape the ice off, I revved the engine until I could feel lukewarm air blowing out the defroster. Then I took off down the street, bent over and squinting through the small opening the warm air had made. I could barely see where I was going but that never deterred me before and it wasn't slowing me down then. At the end of my street I barely missed a garbage bin someone had set too far in the road. Not seeing it until the last moment, I swerved to the left more than I would have if my view had been unobstructed. But, by the time I made it to the highway my windshield had cleared and I settled in for the commute to work.
The traffic was flowing fine and I was convinced it would be another boring ride to the city. It was just as well as I had much to think about. My life was unraveling and I didn't know what to do about it. I felt as if I was being attacked from all sides and was defenseless to retaliate.
The first thing I thought about was my job. I used to enjoy my work but now the pressure was such it was impossible to find any satisfaction in a job well done. This was due in large part to my new boss. He understood little and demanded much. All he wanted was to look good to his superiors. It didn't matter to him what it took. He expected us to work like robots and had very little tolerance for anything less.
Two days ago he gave me a written warning because I was five minutes late coming back from lunch. It was my first time being late in months, and yet he wasn't understanding at all. He could've given me a verbal warning, but no, he made sure it was written and went into my permanent work record. It didn't matter to him that my battery went dead and I had to get a jump start just to get back to work. He acted as if he didn't believe me. I hate him.
Then, there's my home life. My wife and I have grown apart over the years, but lately it's gotten worse. She's always been hard to please, but now I think me just breathing irritates her. Lord knows I've tried but it's a lost cause. The only relief I can get is to bury my nose in a book or stare at TV. Even then, there are days when the nagging is non-stop. I used feel home was a refuge from the daily grind at work, but now, there's no escape. My boss is constantly on me and I can't do anything to please my wife. What a life!
On top of all this, she's been spending a lot of time up the street at the house of one our neighbors. She says her and Phil's wife have a lot in common and much to talk about. I don't know about this. It seems to me she's up there quite a bit when Phil's home. She doesn't seem that interested in his wife when he's at work. There's nothing quite as annoying as coming home from a day at work with the boss I have and finding no one at home. I can feel the love.
Now, all of this is bad enough, but we have a fifteen year old daughter. She used to love me. It wasn't long ago she was Daddy's little girl and now I don't know who she is. She dyed her brown hair black with red and yellow streaks in it. Her mother, without consulting me, let her get her tongue pierced. Now, thanks to the inserted barbell, she talks with a lisp, that is, when she talks to me at all. She's horrified at the thought of being seen in public with her mother and me, and when we're home, she stays in her room with the door closed. Why not? She's got a TV, her computer, and her cell phone in there. All she comes out for is to grab a tray of food, and then, without a word, she disappears back into her room. I can't remember the last time she gave me a kiss on the forehead.
Finally, there are the bills. We're stretched pretty thin. I make pretty good and my wife has a part-time job. Still, we pretty much live from paycheck to paycheck. There have been weeks when we've borrowed from Peter to pay Paul, as it is. I've asked my wife to be more frugal, and she is, until she sees something she wants to buy. Then there's no stopping her. We'll be short on money but that won't stop her, as she says, that's what credit cards are for. They're for emergencies, but for her an emergency is when it's the last day of a sale. I've suggested she look for full time work. We could use the extra money. She just laughs and says I worry too much, and besides, if she worked longer hours she would have less time to shop. I guess that's logical, but I still want to cry.
So, these were the things weighing on me as I maneuvered in traffic on the highway. I remember thinking I didn't know how much more I could take. It seemed I was being shot at and I didn't know what to do. When I was younger the future looked bright and full of potential, but now, I dreaded the future. It seemed dark and foreboding. I had come to the point where life was not worth living anymore.
Moving along at the speed limit, I glanced at the trees to my right as I sped by. What would it be like to ease my car over and crash headlong into one? It would take care of all my problems. I wouldn't have to put up with my boss anymore. Why, he might even have to do my work until they hired a replacement. That would serve him right. Then he would see it's not that easy. Yes, he would miss me.
My wife and daughter would probably be sad for a while. They may even feel some regret for the way they've treated me. I hope they would. Their conscience ought to bother them. Maybe they'll realize how much they really need me when they see the undertaker closing the lid on my casket.
Of course, they'll get a huge insurance settlement. I'm sure the insurance company will have its doubts as to whether my death was an accident or suicide. If it's an accident they pay. If it's a suicide they don't. I've given no indication of suicidal tendencies, so all they will have to go on is the car crash. It'll be quite apparent that I dozed and lost control. They'll have to pay. Now, if they take their sweet time investigating and don't pay for months, then maybe my wife will just miss me that much more. I would love to see it. But, at least, they won't have to worry about finances. I wouldn't want to leave them destitute. It wouldn't be right and I do love them more than that.
I must admit, it was appealing. I envisioned the last few seconds of my life and the crash that would end it all. For a moment I had an inclination, slight as it was, to ease the steering wheel to the right and veer off the road. Then I had a sobering thought. What if I wasn't killed? What if at the last second my will to live caused me to swerve and I survived? What if I was severely injured? What if I was left to be an invalid and could never take care of myself again? I had to think about this.
To break this dire spell I turned the radio on and moved over into the passing lane to get around a slower moving car. It wasn't long before the song "Jeremy" by Pearl Jam was blaring through my speakers. I had to smile. Here I had just minutes before been contemplating ending my life and now the radio was playing a song about a kid who did just that. When the song ended the DJ came on and said, "Hey, we haven't played that in a while. That's a great early song from Pearl Jam. You remember the story behind it? A boy in high school in Texas back in 1991 shot himself in front of his classmates. Lead singer Eddie Vedder was inspired to write about it. In a KISW-FM 'Rockline Interview' Vedder had this to say:
"'It came from a small paragraph in a paper. If you kill yourself and you make a big old sacrifice and try to get your revenge, that's all you're gonna end up with is a paragraph in a newspaper. Sixty-three degrees and cloudy in a suburban neighborhood. That's the beginning of the video and that's the same thing is that in the end. It does nothing... nothing changes. The world goes on and you're gone. The best revenge is to live on and prove yourself. Be stronger than those people. And then you can come back.'
"What a shame, but what a great song."
I thought about that. All these people would regret how they've mistreated me and I wouldn't be there to see it. This does dull the appeal of suicide. But, it would ease my pain. When a person is hurting, as I was, there's no telling what they'll do to get relief. God, I wanted to die!
But, it needed to be done right. I remembered thinking I needed to give some more thought to this. Besides, if I was going to go through with this I needed to plan. I needed to pick out a big enough tree to ensure I died upon impact. I needed to psych myself up to do the deed without flinching so as not to botch the results. Waiting another day wouldn't matter that much. In fact, it would give me a chance to take one last long hard look at everyone I would be leaving behind. They wouldn't know what was going to happen but I sure would. It would be sweet for me to have the last laugh and them not even know what I was laughing at. So, I set my mind to waiting one more day.
The flash of the light behind me brought my attention back to driving. A man behind me was driving like a fool. We were in the passing lane, doing the speed limit, and it wasn't good enough for him. He was impatiently swerving back and forth in his lane in an attempt to get me to move over. There were cars directly in front of me. I couldn't go any faster without running into them and I didn't understand why he was so insistent I pull over to the right. He would only move up one spot. I guess if it worked with me he would try it with everyone else so he could work his way ahead. That pissed me off.
Now, I've never really been concerned about the driver behind me. If I'm doing the speed limit, why should I worry about some jerk behind me? Am I to pull over just so they can speed and break the law? Am I supposed to cower to some road bully? It always amazed me how some people could complain about crime and how somebody should do something about it, and then turn around and be a speed demon on the highway. Someone told me one time that there was a world of difference between serious crimes and speeding. I sarcastically told them I was sure the victim's families of overly aggressive drivers would find comfort in that thought.
This guy wouldn't give up. He tooted his horn to get my attention. I raised my arm up as a question gesture as to what was I suppose to do. It wasn't the gesture I really wanted to give. At first, I thought it might be an emergency, but then I recognized him. It wasn't every morning I saw him, but when I did, he was always flying down the road, weaving in and out of traffic, and slamming on brakes to avoid hitting someone. I remember wishing more than once that a cop could be there when he came by. It wasn't an emergency, it was just him.
We drove a few more miles with the traffic bumper-to-bumper and the driver behind me becoming more and more impatient. I just turned up the radio a little louder and ignored his antics. Eventually, a spot opened in the right lane. I decided I might as well move over since my exit was coming up in a few minutes. Even then I wasn't concerned about the idiot behind me. I turned on my right flasher and started moving over. He must have saw the open space and tried to beat me to it. When he realized I was going to get there first he jerked his car back to the left. He had already sped up and his momentum caused his right front bumper to catch my left end. This sent me into a tailspin.
The next thing I knew I was looking at the car behind me in the right lane heading for my passenger door. Everything seemed to move in slow motion, but, in reality, it was all over in a matter of seconds. Tires screamed as everybody scattered in an effort to avoid hitting me. The car behind me had nowhere else to go and slammed into my side. I can still hear the crunching metal and the look of terror on the driver's face. The impact sent me sprawling into the vehicle that had caused all this. We came together and bounced into the median with my vehicle winding up on its top. The last thing I remembered was thinking the world sure looks different upside down.
Now, I'm lying in a hospital bed with all types of tubes hooked to me and machines humming to keep me alive. I'm not sure how long it's been since the accident as I go in and out of consciousness. From what I've heard my injuries are life threatening and only time will tell if I make it or not. The idiot that caused all this is in a room down the hall. He's pretty banged up but he'll live.
Even when I'm awake everything is hazy. They have a tube down my throat so I'm unable to talk. I'm not feeling any pain. It must be the medicine. From time to time the nurse checks on me and I remember seeing a doctor once or twice. My family's here and this morning I had a visitor. It surprised me and I pretended to be asleep but I listened intently to what he had to say.
It was my boss. He told my wife and daughter he'd sit with me a while to give them a break. I was impressed. When they had left he touched my arm and said, "Look, I don't know if you can hear me or not, but I want you to know we miss you at work. Everyone wants you to get well so you can come back." He paused for a minute as if he was trying to gather his thoughts. "I know at work it's been rough lately. With the economy the way it is the pressure on me to get results is unbelievable. My bosses don't care what it takes. All they're interested in is the bottom line. So, I know I've ridden you pretty hard. I've rode everybody hard because that's all I'm getting from the front office. But, it won't be like this forever. All we need is for you to get better. That's all that matters now. No matter how long it takes you get yourself well. Your job will be there waiting for you. And remember, your family needs you and I need you."
He didn't say anything else, or if he did, I blacked out and don't remember. The next thing I knew was my wife and daughter had come back in the room and he was gone. I must admit, he caught me off guard, as I never expected such a reaction from him. In fact, I figured he would take this opportunity to get rid of me and hire a fresh face. But, evidently, he does have a heart beating in his chest. He's actually human. It made me feel good to know he does care about me and wishes me well. I guess things at work weren't as bleak as I had thought they were. If I wasn't so groggy I'd probably be smiling.
I'm not sure when this exactly happened, but I felt pressure on my arm and awoke to find my daughter resting her head there. She's still my little girl. I was about to doze back off when I heard her whisper, "Daddy, I love you." This caught my attention as I hadn't heard it in a long time. I tried to tell her I loved her, too, but the tubes in my mouth made me gag. She felt me move and raised her head. The gag reflex made me close my eyes and I'm glad I did as she started talking to me. "Daddy, don't die! Please!" It sounded as if she wiped her eyes before she continued. "I've never thought about losing you before. You were always there for me, even when I didn't want you to be. I love you, Daddy. I love you so much! I know I haven't been the best daughter. It's just hard. But, I knew you were always there and wouldn't let me get hurt. If you get better I promise I'll change! I promise!" I felt her kiss my forehead and then she wept. "If you die I don't know what I'll do. Please, Daddy. Please keep living for me!" My wife must have come into the room as she bolted to her feet; they hugged each other as I drifted off again.
I dreamed of my daughter and me running through a field of daisies. We were holding hands and laughing. Then I was pushing her on a swing and she was a little girl again. We were having the best time together. Then she was all grown up and a beautiful young lady. I was so proud of her. She looked so much like her mother. I'm truly blessed to have two beautiful women in my life.
Sometime in the night I came to again. I could sense it was dark outside and the lights in the room were turned down low. My wife was in a chair beside my bed. I could hear her crying. She needed a hug but I couldn't give it to her. I heard her sniffle and then say, "Do you know how many times I wanted to leave you? There were plenty. You can be so headstrong and stubborn it makes me ill. But, I never thought about you leaving me, not like this. It was always me walking out the door. Now, I don't know. I'm not sure I can live without you. Oh, you make me so mad! You make me love you and now that may be taken away from me." I could feel her move closer to the bed. "Don't you die on me! Don't you dare die on me! I love you and you're not going to treat me this way! Do you hear me? If you come out of this we can make things right again. I promise. I'll do my part. You do your part and get well. You can fuss at me again. I don't care." She started crying and she blubbered, "I want to hear you fuss at me again! Just don't die! Please! Please don't die!"
Well, what can I say? I wasn't expecting this. She does love me. We've kept our distance from each other recently, but when it comes right down to it, we do love each other. I know I love her. She's right. We can make it right again. I know I'll do whatever it takes to make that happen.
It's ironic that it wasn't that long ago I wanted to die and had even contemplated suicide. In fact, I had stopped just short of doing so and had made definite plans to follow through the next day and end it all. The world was crashing in on me and I couldn't see any other way out. It would've eased all my pain and I had thought it would shower guilt all over everyone who had ever done me wrong. I chose not to end my life but circumstances have meant it could still happen.
My boss came to see me and he didn't have to do so. He's turned out to be all right. I know he's got a tough job and my attitude probably hasn't made it any easier. Yet, he wants me to get well and come back to work. I would like that.
My accident has shaken my daughter. She's afraid of losing her father. I know she loves me and she's just being a teenager. It's hard on her. She needs a father's guidance. I want to be there for her.
My wife is devastated. I didn't think it possible. After all these years she still needs me. I want her, too. She's willing to do her part to get our marriage back to the way it once was. I want to be there with her to make sure we do.
I have a lot to live for. God, I don't want to die. Please, don't let me die. I want to live. I want to hug my daughter. I want to make love to my wife. I just want one more chance. I want to hobble down the hall and punch the other driver in the face. Please, God. Please, give me one more chance. I want to live!