A Glimpse in Autumn
When her head cleared, she knew she was upside down. It was a curious feeling, being suspended in a seated position, very similar to how it felt when she would ride the roller coaster with the double loop and her hair would flip about while the blood and the g-forces pressing on her face would cause her seconds of blackness. This was different in that she was motionless, hanging from the car seat held tight by her seat belt.
It was dark, which meant most likely it was the still the same night unless she had been unconscious for 24 hours or more, but that seemed unlikely. She moved her head slowly from side to side, taking in what she could see in the glow of her still lit dashboard. Her neck didn’t hurt, which was a good sign, but she could feel pain in her shoulder and her legs felt completely asleep, totally numb. She tried moving her right leg but it was too dark to see if she was having success.
“How long have I been out” she thought, moving her left hand to her face, hoping to see the watch face. It was after 2. She had left his house at 12:30.
She remembered deciding to take a drive, to let her head clear, the scent of him still fresh in her nose and on her skin. An image of his face and his heavy, soft lips on hers, the blurry sight of him as she fought to keep her eyes closed rather than her usual habit of eyes wide open for every kiss. He tasted like salt and red wine, that much she remembered, though the suddenness of his approach, the deliberate and delicate manner of his kiss blacked out any memory of the moments before.
She was in her car. That much was clear but that car was obviously off the road and upside down. She wondered what it looked like from the street, if anyone would recognize its color or if the deep burgundy would be hidden and only the oil thick, dark black of the undercarriage would be visible. Now her back was beginning to hurt and she tried to move in the seat, testing her pain response. She was coming back to herself, starting to make sense of her situation. She put her hands over her head and felt the ceiling of the car, perhaps three or four inches above her. The roof had caved in some and it was fortunate she was not any taller or her head would surely have been injured in the rollover. She put her right forearm against the ceiling to support her weight, the used her other hand to try and release the seat belt. She could not depress the button as her weight pressing against the belt had locked it tight.
Using all the strength she had, she pushed up from the floor, against the seat bottom and tried again. Still nothing.
“Calm down” she said. “You’re OK, just think for a bit.”
She took several deep breathes and felt her heart slow down. Over her breathing she heard the sound of the river. It was close, maybe five or six feet in front of her. She could not see it through the spider cracked windshield but she knew it was close. “The car must be resting on the bank.”
Now she was frightened. If the car slid, she could easily fall into the river and though it would not be deep, it would be cold and fast. Trapped as she was in the seat, she would drown, unable to release herself. Focusing on other sounds, she tried to hear if she was near the road, if any cars were passing but nothing rose over the sound of the water, which now seemed very loud, so loud that she could not imagine how it had taken her so long to hear it.
Her phone began to vibrate somewhere in the car. She remembered telling him she would call when she got home, his hands holding her close as they whispered to each other. It had been such a comfortable feeling, his body close and his silent expressions. She had thought it would be strange and awkward as they had been friends for so long, almost two decades. There had always been some tension, a shared attraction, but after so long it seemed obvious that nothing would ever come of it. Finally, in their shared moment it had been right and they both felt it. Effortless was the best word.
Where was the phone? She could still hear it vibrating but could not tell from where. After a few more seconds it went silent. He would not worry, as she often took these drives up the canyon. They were so therapeutic and cleansing for her, but how had this one gone so terribly wrong. Had there been another car, and if so, where was that driver? Injured? Dead? Perhaps driving off and away from the scene. Whatever had happened, it was lost to her right now and what was most important was how to free herself.
She did love him. The thought pushed its way past any other and set itself right in front of her. That was an interesting revelation. He was always charming, funny and kind. She always liked him, but this idea that it was love was new and unexpected. She would tell him. Tomorrow or tonight, whenever she next saw him. Not over the phone though, that was always pathetic. It had to be while he was near her, when he could see her and she could see his reaction.
She felt the car slide, just a little. Her body tensed. Had it slid towards the river or away from it? She could not tell and she held perfectly still, waiting to see if it would slide again. She focused and listened. Under her head she heard the sound of metal scraping on rocks. The car was moving slowly towards the water. Frantically she again tried to release the seat belt, pushing with everything she had away from the ground, trying to shift her weight enough to release the belt lock. The front of the car tilted forward and downward and now she could see the river in front of her, ten feet down the bank. She was going in and nothing was going to stop that, but if the car went in sideways, perhaps that would loosen the pressure and release the lock. She would be able to move but she would be in the water. She would have to move quickly. The Autumn water would be very cold. She would have to focus, be aware of anything, everything and take whatever chance presented itself. She was smart, clever and determined. There was still a chance, still hope she might survive this. She closed her eyes tightly and waited.