Word Count: 399
Constructive criticism is always welcome.
You hear the sound of an incoming text message and look down at your phone for no more than 30 seconds, but it’s all that it takes to crash into another car. You see the woman you hit passed out against the steering wheel with blood pouring from her head.
You’re rushed to the hospital and learn you will need to stay a few days. You lie in your new bed and watch the news. You see the woman’s face from the car and turn up the volume. Reporters say she’s unconscious and has a traumatic brain injury; the doctors don’t think she will survive.
The guilt begins to overcome you; how can you make this right? You ask for a mirror to see your own injuries, but you don’t recognize the face looking back at you.
Days later, a friend drives you home from the hospital because you can’t stop picturing broken glass and the eighteen-year old you hit long enough to sit behind the wheel. You start taking a bus or asking for rides whenever you need to leave home.
You see a doctor for anxiety. You consider speaking to a therapist. Weeks pass, and you still can’t get behind the wheel without seeing her face.
You go on like this for months, the guilt never vanishing. You sell your car because you’re certain you’ll never be able to drive again. You tell everyone you meet not to text and drive. You wish that you could stop feeling so guilty.
It’s nearly half a year before her face is on the news, but this time it’s because she’s finally going home. She’s learning to walk again; she’ll be okay. You are relieved that she survived, but you still feel guilty. You should have been in that hospital bed all this time, not her.
You imagine apologizing to her, and she pats you on the shoulder as she says, “I forgive you.”
Even in your daydream, you don’t believe her.
Before bed, you look into the mirror again. You acknowledge that it was an accident. Thankfully she lived, and it ended as well as it could. You realize now that you don’t need her forgiveness so much as your own.
“I’m sorry,” you say to yourself, and a little bit of the guilt fades away. It’s a small step, but it’s progress. Perhaps you’ll learn to drive again too.
Read the other entries and vote for your favorite until 11:45 PM EDT on Thursday, August 6th.