“Ma’am, your son’s been in an accident.”
Let’s drive across the country, count the
crumpled carcasses cast to the
side of the road, cars of
mothers and fathers and lovers home
late tonight. Maybe if we slow
to gaze into each shattered
window like a drive-in movie we can pretend
none of them are yours.
“Where is he? Is he okay?”
Tell me again how it feels the instant
before collision, molecules spinning fast towards
fists fused into the dashboard, fingers fuzzy with the memory
of hands that could hold a pencil steady. The future is molded to fit your face and you can
see it coming. Don’t breathe in or the wind will be knocked from your ruptured lungs.
I’ll tell you about the piercing alarm of a 2 am phone call, the blinding
white of the ER, how it took
stretchers and sirens and one-in-three
chances for me to finally
hear from you.
“The medics are examining him now.”
“My son. Is my son okay?”
Tell me again why you left
that night, knuckles swollen from pounding
your prayers into the wall, the connection of flesh with
plaster ringing more clearly than your crackling
words hit my ear. This time don’t
leave out the parts I’ve been dissecting for
years. Forgiveness is not
forgiveness if you forget
your grievances. When your wounds heal
they will scar. When I forgive
it will be conditional. The past is painted
beneath our skin but it’s a story told
through many layers. Say there’s another
between the lines, say this jagged rift is finally
converging, say tragedy will
set us straight.
“Please just tell me if my son’s okay.”
This is a reprint of work originally published in Crossroads IV Anthology.
Marie Ungar is a writer from Charlottesville, Virginia.