You’ll never believe what happened to me Saturday night–other than my diet blowing up like a two-ton firework because I stuffed myself at my uncle’s birthday with two too many pieces of tri-tip and deliciously yummy chocolate cake and soda and pasta salad and more pasta salad and crunchy outside-warm inside garlic bread and chips and dip and…Whew. I feel a little better after spewing all that…not literally of course.
Well, doesn’t that lead right into my post? I had a near death experience on my way home from the birthday party! YES. It’s true. At least in my head it is.
Here’s what happened.
I left the party well after midnight when the full moon was highest in the sky. The roads were bare save for the few squirrels and possums smattered here and there on the dry asphalt. My radio was blaring “Thriller” even though it was way past Halloween and my fingers were latched around the leather-wrapped steering wheel like a vice.
It’s then that I heard the words whisper from the backseat: “Mommy, I unbuckled my seatbelt.”
“What?!?” I yelled, glaring into the back.
Sure enough, as slats of moonlight streamed through the back window I saw my daughter’s body free from the restraint that would save her life if some whacko came flying around the corner and slammed into us. And it could totally happen.
My mind raced. We were still a good ten minutes from home. I couldn’t keep driving. The roads were bare but it’d only take one car veering out of their lane to hit us and that’d be it. But THE ROADS WERE BARE AND IT’S THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT, meaning it’s prime serial killer hunting season. I couldn’t pull over knowing that. There was hardly a shoulder anyway because the road bent and twisted along the river like a shadow hovering beside a dark serpent. There was nowhere to go.
“Put it back on,” I instructed her, slowing to a near halt as we approached the bridge stretching over the river.
She struggled. “I can’t.”
At this point I went into a wild rant about how it’s dangerous to take off seatbelts while the car is still in motion much like the rant you’d get from a stewardess if you don’t stow away your articles and put your tray tables in their upright and locked position on takeoff. Except I wasn’t wearing a pretty smile and a starched suit-dress. I lectured very well anyway and proved my point as a car came barreling around the corner, windows down, Jay Z’s “Hustler” carrying on the night breeze.
IT’S GOING TO HIT US! I KNOW IT IS! THE ONE TIME SOMEONE TAKES HIS OR HER SEATBELT OFF IS THE TIME SOMETHING HAPPENS! OH GOD! IT’S DARK! IT’S COMING FAST! I’M HELPLESS!
My saving grace appeared on the right–a small stretch of sand just before the bridge, large enough to fit my big ass truck. I weaved off the road, bounding over rocks and potholes and came to a halt before the little sandy patch shifted into a dirt road and dropped down into the river.
I sighed a breath of relief as the car passed, disappearing into the night. I peered through the dark to where the truck’s lights illuminated something near the water. It…it almost looked like people…yes…two, three, maybe more…men. Big men. Damn it. They had to be big mean-lookin’ men who didn’t look pleased that I’d disturbed their little party, didn’t they? Couldn’t be little old ladies having a midnight tea party, oh no. Holy hell, there was some sort of bonfire going on and they…why were they all standing and looking at me? Oh shit, my lights were pointed right at them. And what they were smoking was definitely not legal.
I reached frantically into the backseat to latch my daughter’s seatbelt. I couldn’t reach it.
The men were closer now. Three decided to come check me out, bottles clutched in their grasp. They couldn’t have liked my lights shining right on them but I couldn’t turn another direction (there wasn’t any room), and I couldn’t turn the headlights off. Like I’d want to commit myself to the dark where I couldn’t see them at all! But I also couldn’t keep driving with my daughter’s seatbelt off while car after car sped by! I wouldn’t press my luck–I couldn’t!
I made a split second decision.
I jumped out of the truck, hauled serious ass to the passenger door directly behind mine, leaped across the back bench seat, jerked the belt across my daughter’s body, latched it, slammed the door shut, scurried back to my seat, slammed my door closed and bounded back onto the road.
I was seriously winded.
“Why’d we have to hurry?” she asked, innocent and worried.
“Because it wasn’t safe!” I snapped, my heart still beating out of my chest. “There were men out there by the river and it wasn’t safe!”
“There were men by the river?” It’s clear the trauma had left her wondering why her mother just reacted like a raving lunatic. But then she said, “Were they Fishermen?”
“Yes,” I answered dryly, my mind picturing gangsters with weed and guns and knives and…fishing poles? “They were really crazy fishermen.”
The remainder of the drive home was met with silence as she, no doubt, tried to understand what was going on while I calmed myself down. But I couldn’t! We almost died! Those guys could’ve totally killed us, hacked us up with their filleting knivery and fed us to the fishes as bait for their next meal! Really! It could’ve totally happened!
Okay, okay, so I may’ve overreacted a little bit. I didn’t leave the party after midnight…we left at nine. A car did come barreling around the corner right as she depressed her seatbelt button, but I thought I heard Michael Bolton not Jay-Z. Okay, that’s a stretch too. I didn’t hear anything. BUT there were three guys doing something they weren’t suppose to be doing near the river. They DID NOT like my headlights illuminating them and they did walk toward me to figure out what the hell I wanted. Except they weren’t gangsters or bikers, at least not from what I could discern.
But they sure as hell weren’t fishermen…not that I took the time to look for poles or tackle boxes.
Lastly, something I must admit…the freakout…THAT was real. My emotions. My thoughts. Those were about spot-on. Not so much of a near death experience in reality when you look at the hard facts but who looks at facts now-a-days? Everything seems to be driven by feelings and beliefs and desires and hopes and fears. I was definitely running on a few of those skewers that night.
The rest of the night I was completely spent. I crawled into bed and delved into Monica McCarty’s The Chief before I called it a night well after midnight. My mind just wouldn’t shut off. Thank God the historical romance didn’t have cars or seatbelts or crazy men who had bonfires much too late at night and freak out mothers driving home with their restless children.
What about you? Your child ever push the seatbelt button while you were still driving? Have you ever forgotten to latch it completely and freak out when you realize you went halfway across town without it? I could imagine your mind might race through horrible possibilities as mine did. Care to weigh share so I don’t feel like the only batty mother?