I hated rain. I had always hated rain. It was so damn predictable that it was my luck to get in an accident on a night like this. It was raining so hard now that it sounded like white noise outside my window. My hair was wet and slicked to the back of my neck. I was shivering and aching all over. I desperately wanted to move. I wanted to unclip my seatbelt. The pressure on my chest was growing heavier and I was finding it harder to take even breaths now. I grimaced as I tried to twist myself around.
Come on, just fucking move.
I managed to twist myself so that I freed my left arm from between my hip and the door. It hung useless in my lap and I managed to look down at myself.
The panic swallowed me. It was intense and it was sharp and it stripped the air from my lungs. Had I been able to breathe, I would have screamed. I would have cried.
But I couldn’t. I sat in a moment of petrified silence as I looked down at myself. Rain hadn’t gotten into the car. I was simply swimming in my own blood.
My jeans were stained with so much of it that they were almost black. My white guess sneakers were no longer white- one wasn’t even on my foot anymore. My sock was stained and I couldn’t feel my toes. More specifically, I couldn’t feel my feet, or my legs. I didn’t know where all the blood was coming from. I didn’t want to know. It was better not to. At least, I told myself that it was.
I heard a siren whir to life somewhere in the distance. My heart hammered away in my chest and the panicked rhythm of it was a welcome reminder that I was, in fact, still very much alive. I was still here, in this shitty car and shitty weather. And people were coming for me.
I was parched. I needed a drink. I thought of my mother again sitting on our green and white striped couch, nestled into our throw pillows with a book perched on her lap. I thought of a mug of tea. I thought of putting my head on her lap and letting her run her fingers through my hair.
God I wished she was here.
Don’t cry, Caitlin. They’re coming. Don’t cry.
I closed my eyes for the briefest of moments. When I opened them again I started to count the rain droplets on the windshield. I lost count and started over. The sirens were growing closer. I counted again.
Three nights ago I had gone to the grocery store and stood in front of the cashier. She was an older lady with frizzy gray hair and glasses that hadn’t been in style since the eighties. She squinted through the thick glass as she tried to punch in the code for the chocolate covered almonds I had purchased from the bulk aisle. She held it up a bit and brought it closer to her face.
“It’s one, six, seven, four,” I snapped at her.
She had blinked several times at me. Her expression melted from surprise to embarrassment and she asked me to repeat the numbers.
“Are you as deaf as you are blind?” I asked, crossing my arms across my chest. “This is your job. I’m not very satisfied with the customer service you’re giving me. Is your manager here?”
She dropped the bag of almonds into my bag and pushed her glasses up higher on her nose. “I am sorry that you aren’t satisfied with your experience, miss, but-”
“Whatever, it’s fine. How much for it all?” I had held my hand up in front of her face like an angry traffic controller. The way she squirmed made me feel powerful. I liked it.
Now, I found myself wondering why I didn’t just tell her the number and smile at her. Why was it so hard for me to just be kind? What horrible things had befallen me that made me feel justified to treat her that way? Or to treat Amber Clearwater and several other girls in my high school the way I treated them.
What happened to me that made me forget to tell my mom I loved her?
The tears were coming now. I couldn’t stop them. They were warm and they snaked down my cheeks and my neck. I sobbed and it hurt. I sobbed harder from the pain. The misery. All of it. The rain, my mangled car, my lonely mother, my blood, my favourite jeans, my swimming head.
A horrible sensation was creeping up on me. I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. I wanted to escape it. I wanted to hold it at bay and refuse to let it in. I tried to think of other things. Anything.
I thought of my dad, who had cheated on my mom when I was thirteen. She had kicked him out and he had moved in with his new girlfriend, and within three years he had started a new family of four with her. He wanted me to meet his kids. My step brother and sister. I told him I never wanted to speak to him again. I told him how much he had hurt mom, and how I hated him for it.
I did hate him for it.