Posted on January 11, 2017
Andres knew his time had finally come. The end was near. But he didn’t panic. He felt no fear. As his life flashed before his eyes for the second time, he began suffocating. Andres was drowning in regret, regret for a life wasted, a life not lived. As his body succumbed to the heart attack that was draining his life, he thought of what could have been. There he was, all alone, dying in a dark, dusty room next to a bottle of sweet red wine and half a pizza. What could his life had been?
He didn’t notice the pain in his chest or the nausea crawling up his stomach and into his throat. In that moment, as his entire body tightened, he had only one wish. Andres wanted to go back, back to the moment he threw it all away and get a second chance at life.
A second later he stopped breathing.
Fifty two years before, when Andres was just 25, he had a near-death experience. It was the first time his life flashed before his eyes. As he drove down the interstate highway on a trip across the country, an inebriated woman carelessly zoomed down the wrong side of the road. He had but a second to react before she hit him at 70 miles per hour. He thought of his dead mother, his two brothers, and the life he would never be able to enjoy. The deafening sound of glass breaking and metal clashing and ripping apart blared through his ear drums as his arms and face were pierced by both. Everything went dark. He couldn’t stop. Andres lost total control of his car as he panicked at the smell of death. Less than ten seconds later he had crushed a telephone pole, headed down a small ditch, and come to a halting stop. All he could see was blood. Blood everywhere. Andres didn’t know where the blood was coming from, or why his head felt twice as heavy, or why his left eye felt sewn shut, but he pushed open the door and crawled out of his car. The moment he felt the rough grass across his soft hands he knew he was still alive, but as blood dripped onto his fingers, there was no way he could have known if he just had a few scrapes or if his scalp had been sliced open for the air to poison. So he cried. He cried as others came to help. He cried as he called his father. He cried as an ambulance drove him off to a hospital. And he cried as doctors tried to mend his broken, swollen arm and head. Had it not been for the pain medication, he would have wept all night long.
Over the next eight weeks Andres’ recovery took a devastating toll. He shut himself from the world and dug himself back into the ditch he had crawled out of after being crushed by a flying car. He was just so angry. After everything he had been through? Had he not had enough? His family tried to help him. He pretended to smile and repeatedly told them he was doing better. He was lying. His friends tried to call, but he pretended to sleep as the phone rang. He became a master at pretending. Some paid him a short visit, so he laughed at their jokes and reassured them he’d be fine alone. He lied. After everything he had been through? Had he not had enough? He was so angry.
When Andres was just fifteen his mother had been shot by a man trying to steal her purse. She had been his best friend and she had loved him unlike anyone else. She understood him. Strike one. Andres didn’t know his real father. He had walked out of his life when he was just five, become a drug addict, and had ended up in jail. Strike two. His two older brothers had been his only role models, but both were far and had their own lives. He didn’t want to bother them. He grew up with people who learned to love him, who made him family, who cared for him. But he was angry. He had lost a mother and a father, he had lived through heartbreak, he had grown up bullied by the bigger boys on the playground, he had been sexually abused in college by someone he had trusted, and he had crawled into depression’s cold, clammy hands and sprang out of them. Now a car crash? After everything he had been through? Strike three. Out.Or strike twenty seven, or thirty two. Who knew? Who was counting? But he was out.
To drown, or to rise. Do or die. Andres stuck with his anger. It filled his entire body with a pulsating, ravaging warmth. And so for the next fifty two years he carried the weight of a miserable, angry, pathetic life. What, exactly, was the point of living? Living was hell. And so Andres lived bound by a broken heart, an empty mind, and a shattered spirit.
He went to work. Worked. Did what he was asked. Then he went home. He lost all ambition. And so he was a faithful, reliable worker, but never more than that. He was never promoted, and Andres was fine with that. He made a living. He didn’t need more to live in this hell.
After work came home. He watched his pretend-favorite shows. Changed the channel a few hundred times a night. Ordered pizza a few times a week. Ordered Chinese the others. Sat on the couch as day turned into night, as Friday turned into Monday, as year turned into year after year after year.
He lost touch with friends. They came and went and tried but he never budged. He had lost interest in love. Some had tried but he was just so angry. What was the point? He’d just lose them, too, or they’d run away far before then. And so he never found someone worth sharing his worthless, little life with. And so he never had any children of his own. His childhood dreams of becoming a father never came to be. He never took his son, Zayden, out for ice cream. He never saw his daughter, Annyah, graduate from college. It never happened.
Slowly but surely he grew old and sour. His brothers became busy raising their kids in Florida, painting picket fences and attending soccer games. His family spent all their time training for gymnastics at the Olympics. His friends found lovers and moved on. Andres had sank deep into the pit of despair and built a home. A solemn, cold, black home. One car had changed his entire life.
And he let it.
He let it happen.
On the morning of his heart attack, Andres watched as a lonely, young man died on one of his TV shows. He had no friends and no family. It was weeks before someone knew he was dead, once the smell of his rotting flesh penetrated the walls and reached the neighbors. Andres laughed sarcastically. He laughed because the scene made him nervous.
Three hours and six pizza slices later, Andres had a heart attack.
Regret filled him as he stopped breathing, the taste of a lonely life quickly fading away. The warmth of his anger disappeared as he felt the wet, biting hands of death penetrate deep into his soul. He closed his eyes and gave in.
“Good morning, sunshine,” a strange woman in a white coat said. “I’m Doctor Schnierle. You were in a car accident last night. You are going to be okay. Your family is on their way.”
Andres squeezed her hand and smiled as tears rolled down his still bloody, swollen cheeks. He’d get that second chance at life after all.