Friday, December 23, 2005

Short Story: Truck Driver

this is a short story i wrote as a creative writing assignment....there may be some mistakes and will edit it more when i get the chance....hope you enjoy...also, it's kinda long....

As Adam lay in bed feeling sorry for himself his doctors announced an unexpected visitor. This new person was a visiting medical student looking at potential hospitals for residency. It was a coincidence and surprise to Adam that the doctor had guided her into his room. Adam gave a vague gesture of hello as they approached his bed. The normal pleasantries were exchanged and she introduced herself as a student at UPenn Medical school. Even Adam could tell that she was more than a little stressed out. She asked what had happened to him. It was the first time someone else would hear his story. She sat down on the edge of the bed and he closed his eyes ever so slowly. He hated recounting the details of the accident as he already did it over and over again in his dreams. The sudden loud noises, lights, rain….The medical student noticed Adam’s EKG machine as his heart quickened and his hands trembled with sweat.
As he told the story in grandiose detail she became a little uncomfortable and tried to change the subject. She had noticed on the chart that he was a junior in high school and asked how his applications were going. Adam told her of his worries and plight and she told him that she was once exactly where he was. Once these words came out of her mouth she thought to herself that in fact, she had never been exactly where he was. Whereas Adam had survived a brutal car wreck and would go on to do whatever he wanted even if it seemed impossible. It was in her description of sympathy that she all of a sudden became acutely aware of her own life. She thought to herself how lucky Adam was to have survived such an accident and be so brave. They continued to chat about their families and lives until the doctor explained to her that there was much more to see around the building. They each offered sincere good-byes and in they marveled at the feeling when they shook hands that they both had an overwhelming feeling that anything was possible.
As she continued her tour she could not stop harping on Adam’s case. She inquired to his doctor about the circumstances. He explained just how lucky Adam had been, and to think he’d be able to try walking more than the length of the hallway in another month was remarkable.
Somewhere along the line Adam had to come to grips with it: his different appearance after the accident. He never saw it coming, mainly because he fell asleep at the wheel, and it was rainy. He always wanted to take on someone bigger than himself, just not an 18-wheeler. Adam was lucky to survive, but it was not without a fight. He stayed in the hospital bed for nearly a month. The first several weeks with all sorts of tubes and wires coming from places that even I could not figure out.
Before the accident Adam was a semi-normal kid. Liked to play sports, and pretty much got along well with everyone, except for those “weird” kids. They were not that weird and were probably very nice, just that something was a little bit off, like they lacked social consciousness, or they tried too hard to be considered different or something. He was an interloper between all the different cliques and looked forward to the day he would get to leave high school for good, but that meant getting into a good college. The process of which was the bane of his existence that is until the accident nearly took it.
He was still growing his auburn hair back after they shaved it off to stitch his head where glass had lacerated the scalp. Somehow he managed to receive two black eyes and a fat lip. Normally, he was a well-put together guy who tended to wear Diesel jeans, Puma sneakers, and a Brooks Brothers polo. Now, he could barely feed himself. The nurse or his mother would come in around mealtime and help him sit up because he could not easily do so with a broken leg suspended from the ceiling. The tray of less than desirable food was rolled over next to the bed to reveal a smorgasbord of food that needed little chewing and had even less taste. The best things were apple juice and red jello. He remembered the days when his dad would put a plate of his mother’s homemade apple strudel next to him and nudge him to fix his essays. Adam felt so helpless lying there; having his mom spoon-feed him like he was less than a year old again. She would even take a scoop of mashed potatoes and do the annoying airplane trick, “Potatoes requesting permission for landing in the mouth…here they come…” He really did not have much of an appetite and would get through some of the plate, but usually it just looked like things had been pushed around to make it look like he had eaten his vegetables.
On that helpless night Adam had been hanging out with his girlfriend at her house. She didn’t live nearby; in fact, she was just under an hour away (depending on how close to a speeding ticket you wanted to travel). He wasn’t planning on seeing her that night but a fight had erupted between him and his father about college applications and how if he didn’t work on them bit by bit and left them to the last minute he wouldn’t get into school, wouldn’t have a life and certainly wouldn’t want to get a job and pay rent to his parents. This was all absurd to Adam, who was a bright kid but didn’t like to flaunt it, and actually had done more with those dumb common applications than his dad knew, but that wasn’t the point. He needed some sort of release from being somewhat sheltered. At the zenith of the disagreement, where hearts were racing, fists clenched, and voices near screaming, Adam speed-walked to the front door of the house and slammed the door behind him. He was in his car before the screen door had closed entirely.
Initially, he thought he’d just go for a ride. Driving had always been a remedy for clearing his mind. He usually put something hard or angry on the cd player but this time wanted something to lighten his mood and senses. Nothing accomplished this feet better than Mason Jennings. Adam sang along to the line he liked the most, “If you fall in love, then you should jump right in”. Adam had a girlfriend but in the back recesses of his consciousness he kind of knew it wouldn’t last much more than maybe a year. Maybe it was that every phone call was like extracting teeth, or perhaps it was that every Hanukkah while he got her expensive engraved jewelry she got him a gift certificate to Gap.
He wouldn’t meet the love of his life till senior year of college. Yeah they got along great, shared similar interests, but there was no spark of connection. She always seemed a bit distant. As if she wasn’t totally in the relationship. She didn’t do much for him in the way of surprise gifts for no particular reason. It just seemed like she only thought about him when they were side-by-side. Whereas Adam felt like he loved her, he gave all of himself to her and usually brushed aside the negative. Always giving excuses to her to use as to why they couldn’t hang out, or why she refused to be kissed in public places. He would be lucky to hold her hand walking to the same class. Still, in this time of need he had a vague idea that she could console him, plus he had barely seen her that week. So, on his whimsical drive of singing alone with Mason he started in the direction of her house. Why he thought her parents would be happy to see him was a joke. They weren’t mean, but they were extremely protective of their youngest princess. Last time he was there her father asked him every question a overbearing father might including, “when was the last time you put air in your tires? Have you ever had an alcoholic beverage? What are your intentions with my daughter?” Adam soon learned that each question was a lesson in misdirection.
As Adam’s car rolled into the top of her long circular driveway he noticed most of the house lights were out. Not a good sign. Were they out for the evening? Why didn’t he call first? Were they just watching a movie? When would they be back? Should he stay and wait? Where would he go in the mean time?
Adam sat up in the hospital bed with a start one morning. The nurse promptly was by his bedside since he had had another one of those painful dreams where you scream and wake yourself up. He had a dream about the accident that should have taken his life. What would his parents have done? How would his funeral have gone? Did people know him in one of the many cliques of the high school enough to given him a truly honest eulogy? How would his siblings cope? All of these hypothetical questions ran through his head and he questioned himself as a person. He had to change. He was not yet happy with himself. His orchestra teacher knew this about him.
For no reason at all besides self-confidence his teacher came to the hospital and gave him Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet as a source of guidance and meditation. This gift seemed to be some sort of premonition. As he read a certain concept stuck with him: “We know little, but that we must trust in what is difficult is a certainty that will never abandon us; it is good to be solitary, for solitude is difficult; that something is difficult must be one more reason for us to do it”. Adam had the feeling he did not need to be with Emma and that better things awaited him, but it was the idea of being with someone that currently made him so happy, not always the person he was with. Adam had read all the letters in a couple hours. At the conclusion he could already feel a shift in outlook. He was more confident in himself and decided to change other things he did not like about himself while he had some more time on his hands. He would be released from the hospital in another week and would then try to piece together his academic senior year. Other teachers had sent notes with sympathy and understanding, so Adam felt a little better about tackling all his work and missed time. Even his stickler father was happy that his son was all in one piece. After all the admissions offices would surely take some sympathy for an upstanding kid that had gotten into a terrible car crash in the fall of his senior year. All he could do was think about that evening.
On that fateful night Adam gathered the courage to park his car at the top of his girlfriend’s circular driveway and go knock at the front door. He unbuckled his seatbelt with a calm click. He turned off the Mason Jennings playing from the CD player. Then fully shut off the car by turning the key quickly toward him. He disengaged the key from the ignition and gathered his belongings in his pockets: cell phone in the left front, keys in the front right and wallet in the back right pocket. He got out of the car and closed the door behind him gently, but hard enough that it latched. Adam took the steps on the brick walkway up to the front door surrounded by four Roman columns. He stood in front of the door and rang the doorbell. He waited anxiously. No one came quickly. He began to think about walking back to the car and finding some place else to journey. Just then, he heard heavy footsteps coming toward the front door. The door opened and sure enough it was her father dressed in pinstripe suit pants, wingtips, white shirt and red power-tie slightly loosened at the Windsor knot. This was casual for him. That was only the beginning of the intimidating part.
“What can I do for you Adam? It’s rather late for a visit.” Her father remarked condescendingly.
Adam fidgeted and finally said, “Well, sir, I was hoping that Emma was available. I just had a fight with my dad and was feeling the need to talk with her face-to-face. Is she around?”
With more condescension came, “Yes she’s around. But why should I let you in to see her?”
“I’ve really had a rough day sir, and would greatly appreciate a calming and comforting ear to listen.”
Relenting he said, “Alright. Take your shoes off here and leave them next to the door.”
Adam entered the house with some reluctance. The foyer was bigger than Adam’s living room. From the ceiling hung a Waterford chandelier that was imported from Ireland. The stairway up to the second floor hallway was a semi-circle that could be walked up from the right or left side of the hallway. When he walked underneath the archway of the stairway and looked back over his shoulder up to the balcony that could view the family sitting area. He made himself at home on one of the large, plush suede couches in front of the 48” plasma TV which was hanging like a piece of artwork from the wall. Adam could never take in enough of Emma’s house. There was more money spent in one room than there was in half his house. This was in the state-of-the art stereo, the ornate oriental rugs, the always ready for company china and silver in the dining room, and other such opulent things that made the house seem more like a museum. Even the refrigerator made Adam feel inferior; it had a built-in Brita and 6” TV screen so no moment of her father’s sports were missed on the weekends. Emma appeared looking over the balcony and quickly asked Adam what was so urgent that he had to come all the way out to her house to see her. This was not the greeting he wanted, but in the back of his mind he had come to expect it somehow.
Adam explained what had happened at home and Emma could sense his anger and angst. She was not sure what to do. Emma was a pretty enough girl. She was above average female height, possessed dark auburn hair mixed with bright green eyes. In addition, she was in good shape since she played volleyball. She definitely would kick Adam’s butt at most athletic activities except for golf. Emma always had straight A’s but never seemed to try very hard to get them, which Adam resented just a tad. She could do all her homework in a lunch period and not suffer. She never needed to copy others’ work and never allowed hers to be handed out as a guide. After taking the SATs she came out of the test “refreshed” and “ready to go do something totally fun, like bowling”. When the time came to apply for college she pretty much had her pick of the top tier colleges. On this particular evening she was actually working hard at securing another ‘A’ on a Spanish project. Needless to say she was a little on edge. She consoled Adam, and told him it would all be ok, etc. Adam refused to take this advice. Something came over him that made him say what would next come out of his mouth.
“What if it’s not ok? What if I don’t get into college? Can you be so sure? Why aren’t you looking at schools near where I may go? Do you think we could stay together through college or is this not as serious as I am making it out to be? I refuse to believe you really care at the moment….sorry hon, so sorry, I’m just really upset right now. Maybe I better go. What do you want me to do?”
Emma replied succinctly: “I’m sorry too, please just leave. I’ll call you tomorrow.”
She mutely showed Adam to his sneakers, and the door. She didn’t say goodnight, just shut the door as Adam continued to try to apologize profusely. He got into his car and sat idle in the driver’s seat while the car warmed up, and the windows defogged contemplating his future and if love really existed or if it was just a cliché.
It was finally time for Adam to go home from his hospital bed and try to resume life as planned. He still walked gingerly to his parents’ car with each parental unit on either side of him the entire way down the hall, into the elevator, through the automatic doors and out into the parking lot. It would be the first time he had seen his house in what seemed like an eternity. He could not wait to crawl back into his own queen-sized bed under his down comforter and forget about the world, or just watch ESPN until his eyes fell out. Both were possibilities that materialized faster than his mom could make him his favorite sandwich for lunch. But the freedom would be over after the weekend as Adam was expected back in school on that Monday.
Most days his mother now drove Adam to school. Since the family with three drivers was down to two cars now. As Adam got out of the car and walked through the front doors into the main hallway he did not know what to expect. He had perfect dreams where he’d be welcomed back with trumpets blaring and cheerleaders throwing themselves at his feet as a mass of people chanted his name. The antithesis of this dream also occurred where in fact he walked into school and everyone had forgotten him and even his teachers asked what his name was, and had to go the principal’s office to explain. But neither of these visions came to fruition as his best two friends greeted him.
They updated him on all the gossip they knew about and some they hadn’t yet gotten all the details from yet. It was just then, that in passing he caught site of a bulletin board that was dedicated to his crash and news thereof for as long as it was reported. The top headline read, “Truck Crunches Student, truck driver dead”. It was in this moment that he found out for the first time and recalled the metal on metal. Crunching, crumpling and crinkling, with a bang that could have started the solar system. Adam had wondered why everyone kept saying he was a miracle and so lucky. Now, in a weird way, he felt guilty.