The Other Choice

Sherry F

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It’s Darren’s graduation day. Caps are thrown in the air. Joyous shouts echo from every corner of high school as friends laugh, cheer, embrace, cry. Darren, despite being a macho skateboarder, is feeling a little nostalgic as well. His eyes tear up as he hugs his friends goodbye, promising to keep in touch in college. He gets in his car and drives away, watching his teenage memories recede. Suddenly, that little innocuous sound-ping!-he reaches for his phone- And draws his hand back. He decides that his safety is more important, and drives home. It’s Darren’s first day of college. As he unpacks boxes filled with mementos from home, he ponders what the next four years will be like. His parents, excited but also apprehensive, wonder how their little boy grew up so fast. It’s Darren’s first date with Melissa. Having met in their Art History class, Darren finally worked up the courage to ask her out. Blushing fiercely, heart beating out of his chest, Darren takes her hand–and gives her a timid peck on the cheek. It’s Darren’s college graduation. He goes up to the stage and receives his diploma. Watching below are his parents, cheering and clapping, overwhelmed with pride. “We love you, Darren!” they shout. It’s Darren’s wedding. As he watches his bride walk down the isle, chaste and beautiful in white, he is filled with an indescribable happiness. “Do you take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife?” the priest ask. “I do,” says Darren, pulling up her veil and giving her a passionate kiss. It’s Darren’s first child’s birth. The months of anticipation, the frantic but ecstatic drive to the hospital, the flurry of nurses and doctors coming in and out, all of this has built to this exact moment. Watching his newborn utter his first cry, Darren lowers his head and cries openly as well. It’s Darren’s sixtieth birthday. His parents, older but still filled with indomitable pride; his wife, strong and caring and always by his side; his children, all grown-up now; his grandchildren, energetic and playful; all come together, singing an off-tune yet harmonious rendition of “Happy Birthday”. Decades later, Darren will die quietly in his sleep, completely happy with his life. He won’t even remember that critical, defining moment at his high-school graduation. Except, that day a lifetime ago, Darren made the other choice. He reached our and turned on his phone, and then it was too late. He will never see his parents again, never go to college, never get married, never have children. Distracted driving kills. Put away your snacks, your music, your makeup, your phone. Darren made the other choice, but will you?