The Time I Thought About Dying

My sister and I went to the midnight premiere of Magic Mike—a movie about male strippers. And let’s be honest: we didn’t go for the plot. I enjoyed seeing practically naked men shake what God (and some hard work at the gym, dieting, a spray tan, and maybe some steroids) gave them on a giant screen for two hours as much as the next girl. But I wasn’t rushing home to take a cold shower or wake my boyfriend up for some three a.m. sex. Channing Tatum’s six-pack wasn’t even on my mind on the drive home.

Five minutes into the drive, my sister had passed out in the seat next to me. I turned the radio down and stared at the empty road ahead of me.

The golden arches of the McDonald’s sign shone even brighter than normal with no one around. Three a.m. seemed so foreign to me. It was an hour typically reserved for sleep or drunken karaoke in the back of a cab. Not for driving my sleeping, sixteen-year-old sister as drool slides down her chin onto her high school sweatshirt.

I pulled up to a red light and watched the car in the lane next to me blaze on through the intersection without slowing down. I remember thinking, what if I had been driving through an intersection and a car ran a red light and crashed into me? What if it happened tonight? Some drunk idiot could come barreling through a red light and—boom—my sister’s dead. And I would be sitting here, airbag pressing against my seat—unable to move. Would I be in shock? Unconscious? Perfectly fine, except for a few scratches? Would the other driver be fine? Would he (or maybe it’s a she) be dead, too? What if the driver just fled the scene and didn’t even check on us? Would there be witnesses? Probably not at three o’clock in the morning. Could I live with the guilt of driving the car in which my sister died? Would my parents blame me? She was their “baby”—the favorite. She could do no wrong. They’d wish I had died in her place.

But what if I had? The car could come from the left, T-bone-ing me from the driver’s side. What if we didn’t make it home tonight because I was dead? What would my sister do? How would my mom react? Who would come to my funeral? I wonder if I’d make a pretty corpse—or if the damage would be so bad that it’d have to be a closed casket event? Who would be the most devastated? How would everyone find out the news?

And so I drove straight through every red light on my way home. I wanted that possibility. To be the tragic girl with a bright future who was taken too soon. To have a memorial created in my honor. A “rest in peace” Facebook page where all my friends and family and those who had heard my story could post sappy notes and anecdotes about times they would miss. For a while, I’d be featured in so many profile pictures. Popular, even in death.

But nothing happened. Most of the red lights turned to green as I was approaching. And the ones that did stay red—no one was there to come crashing into me. I pulled into my parking spot, turned off the engine and lights, and sat there, staring at the perfectly calm face in the seat next to me. She would have never seen it coming.

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