Guilt in my gut

Jennifer O

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As I venture into the piercing, ink-black night, I turn the phone in my hand off and hurriedly open the door on the driver’s side of my SUV. I hurl my purse along with my phone into the back seat, plop down, and quickly slam the door closed as to not let the numbing air in. Shivering, I rub my hands together and blow my warm breath on them. Then I close my eyes, and my eyelids are like thick blankets covering the soft gleam of the full moon in the starless sky. As I throw my head back against the seat, my mind takes over. Vivid images flood my thoughts of what had happened two days prior: I see myself putting makeup on in front of the mirror, checking the time, rushing out the door with my lipstick in hand, and starting my car. I recall stopping by the drive-thru and eating a juicy cheeseburger with one hand while steering the vehicle with the other. I remember hastily applying lipstick during a red light, reaching for my phone after hearing the ding, and replying “I’m on my way.” The next thing I knew, there was a frenzy of honking and the sudden, forceful impact, like a thousand elephants crashing into me, and the tumble and turn of my car as glass shattered and stabbed at my face. My mind continues to replay what happened on that dreadful day. I remember waking on a bed lined with white sheets with a monitor beside me that emitted a soothing, rhythmic beep… beep… beep. I remember straining to fully open my heavy eyelids as the sound echoed in my eardrums and the realization of what I did hit me. I had caused a crash! I could have been killed. Worst yet, I could have killed someone! I remember my aching brain processing all this as a burning question slowly emerged. Had I killed someone? I couldn’t have possibly killed someone. I couldn’t have possibly taken an innocent life. Now, coming back to reality, I open my eyes in a rush and let out a small gasp. A chilling sensation curls up my spine. Bowing my head, I stare at my clenched fists hid under the steering wheel through tear-blurred eyes. Little did I know during my stay at the hospital that in fact, I had been the cause of a horribly unfair death to an undeserving individual. How irresponsible I had been! How unspeakably selfish! I imagine the pain of this innocent victim’s family when they heard the blood-chilling news. She was dead. She didn’t make it. And it was all my fault. I don’t want to muse about this anymore, but it is impossible to erase from my mind. I bring my hands up to my temples and slowly push them up into my hair. If only I had turned my phone off and kept it out of sight. Bitter tears stream down my face. If only I had waited until I had reached my friend’s house to eat. If only I had waited to do my makeup. Nothing can bring her back. If only I had been a more responsible and focused driver. To think that I learned a valuable lesson but only after I destroyed a precious life and with it, shattered those of her whole family. Determined to never allow another life to end unfairly, I vow to be conscientious behind the wheel. I can’t change the past, but I can improve the present by sharing my testimony to show people the dangers of reckless and distracted driving.