20 May No Sense Ruining Two Lives
“No Sense Ruining Two Lives”Written by Micah Edwards Edited by Craig Groshek Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek Narrated by N/A
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available
⏰ ESTIMATED READING TIME — 9 minutes
I’m here to make a confession. I don’t know if it’ll help, if anything’ll help at this point, but I’m out of ideas and out of time. So here goes.
A year ago, I was at a party, a decent-sized shindig, bunch of working folks letting loose on the weekend. The alcohol was flowing freely, the music was going, everyone was having a good time. I knew about half of the people there, and the rest of them seemed like decent folks, so it was a good time. The house we were at was out in the country, and I had about a half-hour drive to get home, so when I started yawning at around midnight, I figured I’d better say my goodbyes and get out of there.
I said this then, and I’ll say it now: I was not drunk. I was absolutely fine to drive. I was within the lines, I was alert, I was unimpaired. I have no idea where that guy came from when he stepped out into the road, no idea what he was thinking. Probably he was the one who was drunk. Or high, or something.
He stepped directly out in front of my car, dark clothes out of shadow and into my headlights. I had my foot on the accelerator when I hit him. Never even had a chance to move to the brake. The car slammed into him, and I heard his legs snap, saw him swept sideways up the hood. The side of his face smashed into the windshield, and for a split-second, we were eyeball to eyeball, staring right into each other’s terrified faces before his momentum flung him over the car to crash down into the road behind.
I slammed on the brakes then, of course, screeching to a stop a few hundred feet ahead. I remember my initial thoughts distinctly. First, of course, was “Oh my God, I hit a guy,” followed immediately by, “It can’t have been that bad. The airbags didn’t go off.”
Even as I got out of the car and ran back to him, though, I knew I was lying to myself. It had definitely been that bad. There was no way he was okay.
He was just a crumpled heap on the ground when I got there. There was less blood than I’d expected but more damage. He lay there like a discarded doll, arms and legs flung out at random angles. The breaks were apparent in the way they bent. One leg was folded entirely under his body, the fingers of one hand twisted apart like the roots of a tree. Broken bits of teeth gleamed in a bloody smear where he had landed on his face and skidded along the road, and his neck appeared broken.
His hair was shoulder-length, maybe a little longer, and matted to his face with blood. I moved it aside to check for a pulse, and as I knelt to touch his face, he whimpered, a pitiful, drawn-out sound. He was alive. Despite everything, he was alive.
I staggered back in surprise, falling backward onto the pavement. The broken pile of rags in front of me twitched, mewling again.
“H-help,” he whispered.
I picked myself back up to my knees and leaned over him. “Hey. Hey, man. It’s gonna be okay.”
“Did,” he swallowed painfully, and blood ran from the corner of his mouth, “you hit me?”
“It was an accident, man. I never saw you.”
“Cal– Call help.”
I took my phone out and started to dial 911, but as I pressed the 9 the enormity of what I’d done hit me. I was going to go to jail for this. My money for the rest of my life was going to go to this guy’s hospital bills. And would the cops believe I wasn’t drunk? I’d been drinking at the party, after all. So there’d be that on top of it.
And the guy’s life was screwed. He still hadn’t moved a muscle below his neck. Even if he survived, he’d be paralyzed. He looked to be maybe in his early 20s, so that gave him, what, six decades of being trapped in a shattered body in a wheelchair to look forward to? Never having a real relationship, being an object of pity and half-hidden stares for the rest of his life. And it was an accident. It wasn’t his fault, but it wasn’t mine, either.
His life was over, and I was sorry about that, but there was no reason for me to join him. One of us could still make it out of this.
I put the phone down at my side. He stared at me from the ground, blood, mucus and tears running down his torn face. His eyes were focused, though, and we locked gazes for the second time.
“Just relax,” I told him, reaching out to pinch his nose shut and cover his mouth. “Help’s coming. Shh, just relax.”
I looked away as I cut off his air and held his head down against the asphalt. Although his body was paralyzed, he thrashed his head a couple of times and made muffled noises behind my hand, but even those stopped quickly. I held him there for several minutes after he stopped moving, my fingers pressing into the ruin of his cheek, before I finally looked back. His green eyes were staring up sightlessly, and I closed them before letting go of his mouth and nose.
I rolled him off into the ditch on the side of the road. The whole incident took less than ten minutes, and no other cars had come by. They were going to find his body sooner or later, I was sure, but there would be nothing to connect it to me.
My car’s right headlight was smashed in, and the windshield had a round impression crushed into it where his head had hit. That was the only major damage, though, along with various dents and bumps along the hood and roof. I drove to a 24-hour automatic car wash and sat inside my car as the brushes whisked away any evidence that it had been a person I hit. As the soap sprayed across the windshield, I saw several strands of his long brown hair caught in the cracked windshield, highlighted against the white background, and I shuddered. Then the brushes passed over the windshield, and the hair was gone.
I parked the car in the garage when I got home and went straight to bed. I slept better than I expected; although I had troubled dreams, they were of arresting officers, not of the guy I hit. My concern, even in my subconscious, was just of getting caught.
The next day, I drove the car into the metal tool rack at the far end of the garage. The thin metal struts bent and toppled forward, dropping cans of paint, jars of screws and heavy boxes of tools all over the windshield and hood of the car. I backed it out, took it to the shop still dripping with drying paint, and told them I’d had it in drive instead of reverse. They laughed at me and said they could have it fixed up by tomorrow.
And that was basically it, for more than half a year. No one ever came looking for me, and I went on with my life like nothing had happened. I thought about the guy pretty regularly, obviously. I felt really bad about what had happened to him. But my reasoning that night still rang true: what would it fix for me to ruin my life along with his? And so I went to work and went out with friends, and it just became one of those stories you sometimes think about but never tell anyone.
It was sometime in late summer that the bathroom sink clogged up. I was washing my hands, and the water wasn’t draining well, so I popped out the plug to see what was in there.
I could see a dark mass not too far down, and with the help of a bent clothes hanger I hooked it and fished it out. It came out slimy, black and dripping, and at first, I thought it was something moldy that had gotten stuck in the pipe. I poked at it, trying to figure out what had gotten into the pipe, and as the individual strands separated, I realized it was a wad of hair.
As I teased it apart, the white porcelain of the sink around it began to turn slightly pinkish. Then I understood that the hair wasn’t black at all. It was brown, stained dark with the deep red of blood.
Before I could process this, I saw a glint of something else in the pipe and glanced in at it. There, staring up at me from the dark, was an eyeball, the iris green and familiar. It focused on me as I looked down, and it blinked.
I shouted, I’m sure, and leaped back. Faced with something like that, who wouldn’t? Then, my heart hammering, I stepped forward and twisted the hot water knob as far as it would go. Water sluiced from the faucet and into the sink, breaking up the hair clog and washing it down to drown that staring eye. Steam rose from the sink, and the water washed down easily now, but I still let it run for long enough that the mirror had fogged up by the time I turned off the water.
I told myself I’d imagined it. I told myself it was nothing. But when I turned on the water later that night to take a shower, and the tub gurgled and started to back up instead of draining, I turned off the water and left the house.
I went to a Starbucks to get a cup of coffee, to have a place to sit down and calm my nerves. It was a simple black coffee, nothing fancy. I watched them take the cup off of the stack and pour the coffee in. And yet when I settled into a chair and started to drink it, I was only three sips in when I felt something stringy against my tongue.
I opened my mouth and plucked out a hair. Brown, and much longer than mine. I’d say shoulder-length, maybe a little longer. Two of the baristas had long blonde hair, and the other had a shaved head and a red beard. I didn’t open the cup to see what else was in my coffee. I just threw it away and left.
I slept fitfully that night, with dreams of a man too badly broken to stand dragging himself through a weed-choked ditch at the side of a road. Where he passed, the grass shone red with his blood, but although it stretched out behind him as far as the eye could see, still he crawled onward at his snail’s pace.
The next morning, I poured cereal for my breakfast, and bit down on something hard a few bites in. I spit out a cracked tooth, and felt around with my tongue to determine which tooth I’d broken. It wasn’t until I spotted the other broken teeth bobbing in the cereal bowl that I realized it wasn’t mine.
I poured the uneaten cereal into the kitchen sink, which bubbled and refused to drain. I left it and went to work.
Work was no better. I could hear his voice throughout the day when no one else was around, sighing beneath the air conditioning and whispering words I couldn’t quite understand. Ignoring it was impossible, so I tried to spend as much time around my co-workers as I could, for the sake of my sanity.
At lunch, I was starving, so I got a roast beef sandwich from the cafeteria. I sat with my officemate Evander and tried to hide my reaction when I bit down and immediately felt long hairs in my mouth again.
He saw me make a face, though, and asked, “What’s up?”
“Hair in my food,” I mumbled.
“Gross, man.” He made a sympathetic face.
I felt sauce drip down my palm from the sandwich, and moved my napkin to catch it before it hit the table. The napkin came away dark and sticky with blood. I looked at Evander, who was in the middle of eating his own sandwich and had not noticed. I quietly wrapped the napkin up with the sandwich in the paper it had come in.
“Not hungry?” asked Evander. I shook my head.
I left work early and headed home. I opened my front door and paused. The house smelled like an abattoir, a thick, carnivore smell. I stepped cautiously inside, leaving the door open behind me.
From the front hallway I could see into the kitchen, where the faucet was dripping into the sink. Fat red drops gathered on the end before dropping ponderously to the stainless steel surface below, landing with a heavy splat. I could hear a noise from upstairs, the sound of something heavy being dragged incredibly slowly across the floor.
I got back in my car and drove away. That was maybe four months ago, and I’ve been on the road since. I can eat as long as it’s in a new place, can shower and wash up as long as I haven’t been staying anywhere too long. But any time I settle down for more than a few days, I start to find hairs in my food and quiet noises in the silence.
I thought I knew what he wanted. I thought he was ruining my life, not allowing me to live where he had died. But it’s worse than that.
This morning, I woke up in a roadside motel where I’ve been staying for the last three days. I checked the drain, examined the toothpaste carefully before brushing my teeth, and everything seemed fine. But when I rinsed, spit, and looked up at myself in the mirror, I froze.
The face in the mirror was definitely mine: hollow cheeks, brittle hair, toothpaste dripping down my chin. But the green eyes staring back were his.
He’s not looking to ruin my life. It seems he agrees with me: no sense in ruining two lives when one of us can still go on. We’re just in disagreement about who gets to live.
So I confess to the awful thing I did a year ago, both the accident and the aftermath. I will say it to the papers, to a judge, to a jury. Let everyone know who I am and what I did. Lock me up, make me pay for my crime.
Because maybe if I can ruin my life after all, he won’t want it anymore.
🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available