We carry around in our heads thousands of memories, some of them fragments, some so rich with detail they feel as if the event just occurred. Others are so frayed and thin that they are more sensation than a past reality. One wonders if a memory they've thumbed over again and again truly happened - was it part of a dream or something that happened to someone else? In a series (which I'm calling "Out of Nowhere"), I will be sharing the kinds of memories that remain bright - that have stood out because of their strangeness, because of their poignancy, or significance - or maybe for no particular reason at all.
The Body in the Road
I was the last to be dropped off that night, late. Early, really, around 3 or 4 am. I'd been with my friends since early evening, doing nothing much. I was on the passenger side of the big, broad front seat of Gary's 50s-era car, all shiny chrome and waxy leather. He loved and babied that car so as he made the right turn off of the pavement of Wilson Mills onto the gravel road that ran past my home, he slowed down to avoid any spray of rocks pinging against the pristine paint job.
Save for the headlights there was no illumination on the road on that mild summer night. And it was quiet. Even the crickets had gone to sleep. As Gary turned, the headlights swung wide and resettled onto the road and something flashed ahead of us. Gary slowed and put the car into park. The sound of the crunch of wheels on rocks stopped. Seconds ticked without either one of us moving as our brains' struggled to make sense of the image on the other side of the windshield. A few feet in front of the car was a limp form, human, down in the dirt, right in the center of the road. My throat constricted but my hand was reaching for the door handle. Gary was already out. We walked to the front of the car, the light flooding our faces, the body bright, alarmingly three-dimensional yet sickeningly boneless. Neither one of us wanted to reach for it.
But. A dummy. Something stuffed and dressed to look human. We looked at each other, relief mingling with the dissipating remnants of fear and dread. Thank goodness it hadn't been real. Thank goodness we hadn't run over it. Thank goodness we didn't have to help. Gary dragged the dummy to the side of the road. My heart rate slowed. We got back into the car and drove the next mile in silence, following the sturdy beam of the headlights to my house, dark and comforting in the early morning.
(Thanks to Kel for playing The Body.)