I press the gas pedal down, inching it toward the floor. I am watching the road intently, but my focus is everywhere except there. My mind races as fast as the wheels that now spin on the pavement, moving me towards an unknown destination. I don’t know where I am going, but I don’t care. I just have to get away from it all.
My parent’s hurt expressions as I ran out the door flash through my mind. For a moment, my heart sinks, but I shake the feeling, remembering the words that were spat in my face: ungrateful. My knuckles turn white as I tighten my grip on the steering wheel. My head swirls with disbelief.
I flick the radio on, hoping the music will clear my mind. Instead I want to scream as the chorus to Second Chance by Shinedown blares from the speakers. I reach to change the station, praying for something that will alter the course of my thoughts, but pause for a moment. I leave the song on and begin to sing along, allowing the tears to flow freely from my eyes once again.
“Tell my mother, tell my father th-that I’ve done the best I c-can to make them r-realize this is my life. I hope they u-understand I’m not angry I’m j-just saying. Sometimes goodbye is a s-second chance,” hiccupping, I stammer through the chorus. Just as it ends, I whip my truck around a corner onto a back road.
The familiarity of the road makes me slow down. I cry harder as I remember all the times my father and I drove down this same road when I was a kid. At the end of it there is a hiking trail that leads to a ravine. My father and I always used to climb to the top and sit, legs swinging high above the ground. Sometimes we would bring lunch with us, and there we would sit for hours, just talking about anything, about nothing; but those days have long since passed. Now we do nothing but talk about football, work out for football, practice for football… Live for football. My father is taking such pride in watching someone else accomplish the dreams he once had for himself.
Nearing the end of the road, I slow the truck to a stop to pull over on the rocky shoulder. Not but five feet from the passenger’s side there is a drop off leading to the rushing river that winds through the hills of my hometown. I twist the key towards me, cutting the engine and radio. I sit for a moment in silence before swinging the door open and stepping out. Taking a deep breath, I turn my chin up towards the sky, gazing at the bright white stars that stand out in contrast against the smoky purple swirls. I let myself marvel in something beautiful for a moment, hypnotized by the mystery that is the vastness that lies just beyond our puny world.
I close my eyes and imagine floating aimlessly among the stars, no direction or purpose in where my drifting may lead. The thought of doing something without purpose and without thought of the action’s consequences is something I begin to muse about as I close the door on my truck and walk toward the end of the road. I find a stone and kick it along the shoulder, letting my mind wander like a feather that floats so carelessly on the wind.
I wonder what the past three years of high school would have been like if I had chosen a path that I wanted to go down instead of attempting to please only those around me. I wonder about relationships, not only with family but friends as well. Friends. I think about the word, pondering its true meaning. Do I really have any? I ask myself. Do I really have someone that would do anything for me? Who really feels I’m an important part of their life.
As these questions cross my mind, I stop, staring down into the ravine just below. Inching forward, I allow my toes to hang from the edge and I lean forward. For a moment I hang on the edge of my struggle with reality and my desire to end it. I try, harder than ever, to think of something worth staying for, but as my mind draws a blank, I shuffle one foot farther forward, allowing it to hang freely over the jagged rocks below. I think of how simple it would be to jump, diving effortlessly onto the rocks, my body crumpling under the pressure. I fantasize about the burst of pain, and then the numbness as my body goes into shock and I drift away from everything that I have been trying so hard to run from for years. At that last second I would look up and I would spend my final moments floating among the stars, swimming among the purple swirls, floating aimlessly in space. It seems almost too simple – this freedom – and I wonder if I wouldn’t regret it in those last seconds.
Leaning further forward, I decide to take the leap – or fall – to my freedom. I close my eyes, feeling the cool wind on my face as my body begins to spill over the edge, but at the last second something catches my heel, wrapping its talons around my leg, keeping me from my long desired release from this life.
I am shocked. Too shocked to fight against my new and undesired savoir, too shocked to hear the voice trying to break through what remains of my wall of serenity. I hang limp as I feel myself being inched towards the ledge I had been so ready to jump from. I will my body to resist, wishing to claw my way from this captor and complete my dive to peace, but my limbs feel numb and my mind foggy, so even when all that still hangs from my edge of reality and peace is my head, I remain still.
It is not until I hear the almost musical voice of a woman calling to me that I snap out of my trance. Shaking my head, I pull myself up so that I am on my hands and knees, still looking over the edge into the rocky pit below. As I lean again over the edge, I feel hands being placed on my ribs, gently pulling me back so that I am sitting on my heels. Still a blur, I can hear the musical voice of my savior ringing in my ears.
I look up directly into the most beautiful hazel eyes I have ever seen. As she inches closer, I see tiny green and orange flecks that dance among the light brown color that reminds me of tea you would drink on a brisk autumn morning. In those eyes I not only see the mesmerizing colors, but something else: concern. For me? I close my eyes, shaking my head, thinking that I must have completed my fall and instead of spending my last moments drifting among the stars, I dreamt an angel had saved me, but why? Did I have regrets in my last seconds? Did I really want to be alive?
She is speaking to me. I can hear her voice, quiet and gentle, coaxing me back into reality. The wind whips around us, filling the air around me with a sweet smell I cannot put a finger on. It crosses my mind that it must be her. I look up as she places one hand on either side of my face. Her voice becomes clear.
“Are you okay?” she asks as the look of concern that I found so shocking melts and takes the new form of recognition. She pulls her hands slowly away from my face and places them on her knees as she is kneeling in from of me. Her mouth opens as though she’s about to say something again, but then it shuts, set in a hard line. It is only then that I recognize her.
I don’t know her name, but what I do know is that, if she had known who was thrusting themselves into the throes of death, she would have let me die. I feel blood flush my cheeks, embarrassed about everything that crossed my mind, about the girl I thought was an angel, about the fact that someone who has every reason in the world to hate me just saved my life.