I wake up as my car slams into one of the overpass' support columns at 75 mph.
The columns always manage to attract my car when I let my attention drift while dreaming. They're tricky like that.
Now, I stare up at the ceiling fan, my eyes following the path of the bent arm-which is broken because I threw a bottle at it when I woke up one morning after a late night at the bar. I don't have to look at the alarm clock to know I have to be at work in about an hour.
My dreams wake me more dependably than any alarm. It's easier to get out of bed when I'm afraid to go back to sleep.
The first accident was a few years ago.
I was taking my girlfriend out to dinner. As we were driving through an intersection, not far from the restaurant, a car coming from the left ran the red light and rammed headfirst into the rear corner of my car.
My girlfriend got out of the passenger side and stormed off to confront the other driver, who turned out to be an impossibly old man with bottle-thick glasses. I'd be willing to bet he was legally blind.
I got out and sat down right there on the asphalt, shaking. I heard her yelling, but I couldn't make out any of the words.
That girlfriend left me not long after the accident.
She stopped answering my calls for no apparent reason. A couple of days after the last time I talked to her, a friend of hers dropped off a letter explaining why she didn't want to see me any more.
The letter obviously had been opened and resealed before it made it to me. I realized then girlfriends' girlfriends were not to be trusted.
I don't remember the exact message, but I it had something to do with immaturity.
At least I can see the irony of being lectured about immaturity while being dumped via letter.
I try to ignore the fact there is always a girl with me when I have a wreck.
There are plenty of girls from my past I wouldn't have minded seeing taking a spill-to bring them down a notch or two-but I don't think I've ever done anything about it subconsciously.
And it's not likely they had some sort of conspiracy worked out.
But then, there never seems to be damage on their side of the car.
There is at least one benefit to having the dreams: real accidents don't bother me anymore.
Maybe they have desensitized me the same way they say video games desensitize kids to violence. Or maybe I've been in too many accidents to care anymore, and the dreams are a reminder I've pretty much seen it all already.
Of course, that only counts for accidents happening to me. If they happen to anyone else, it's a big tragedy and whatnot. I'm so sorry to hear about it.
The latest accident was the worst, though I didn't notice.
The trucker must have been sleeping at the wheel that morning, because he merged right into my car as I pulled onto the interstate from an onramp.
Stifling a yawn, I maintained control of the vehicle, applied the brake, and pulled over to the side of the road. I knew the car was totaled; the entire left side was ripped up. The safety glass of the driver's side front window was slumped over in a big chunk right next to my head.
My girlfriend-a different one from any of the other wrecks, as always-had been sobbing in the passenger seat since impact. Now, she wrapped her arms around me and buried her face into my shoulder.
As she did what she needed to deal with the trauma, I stared out the window and thought of tow trucks, state troopers, and insurance companies.
That breakup was also the worst, or at least the worst up until that point. I had been seeing her for six months, and we practically had the wallpaper for the kids' room picked out, we were so sure about the whole thing.
Hey, we were young.
She, of course, decided a rendezvous with my neighbor would be a good way to pass the time while she was waiting for me to come home from work one day. It was apparently worth more than our relationship, anyway.
After each breakup, I would consider hitting the road and just driving until something-anything-happened.
An accident wouldn't seem like such a bad proposition, then, if only I could get someone not to be quite so half-assed about it.
Inevitably, though, I would chicken out and instead go to the dirtiest, cheapest bar I could find and down whiskey until they wouldn't serve me any more-Bourbon, on the rocks, thanks, and could you make it a double?
I'd sit there, steeping my mind in liquor, grasping at random strands of thought for anything to take my attention away from the latest failed relationship. If I was really throwing them back, all of the old girlfriends would gather in my head to remind me of my failures.
Memories are so unforgiving.
It's a small comfort, but a real one, to know my accidents will be waiting for me each night when I collapse into an alcohol-deepened slumber. I'll wake up in a cold sweat in the morning and stare at the ceiling fan and its bent arm until I muster the courage to get up and start another day.
For that moment, I'll lie there in bed-feeding on the rush of having delayed the wreck one more time.