8. The Accident

I lose control of the car and we flip multiple times before landing on our roof. 

Everything is fuzzy at first, like I forgot to put my glasses on.

When it all becomes clear, I realize I’m visiting my family in Jersey on a routine leave from the Navy.

Mom and I just had lunch at one of our favorite spots and we’re heading home.

I’m driving her 1955 cherry red convertible Mustang that she doesn’t really have and that she’d never let me drive if she did.

I’m going fast. If I have to guess, upwards of 120 mph, fast.

image of milky way

I lose control of the car and we flip multiple times before landing on our roof. 

My spirit leaves my body.

I watch the paramedics pull me out of the car, covered in my own blood.

In the ambulance on the way to the hospital, I see myself flatline on the gurney in front of Mom.

When I come to, I am in the hospital waiting room; my sisters are in tears.

I try to talk to them, but they can’t hear me.

I can’t do anything but watch. 

Then, a little girl sits down next to me. 

“What are you in for?” she asks, finishing her red lollipop. 

“How do I get out of here?” I ask. 

“Oh, you can’t.” 

“But I have to!”  I scream. “There must be a way out!” 

“Well, there’s not,” she says. “Listen to me.” And she reaches for my arm as I run away from her and down the hall. 

She doesn’t chase after me, but as I move farther and farther away, I can hear her talking louder and louder.

Not in an angry way, in a way that pierces through my gut and lies there like a bed of rocks because I know that she’s trying to tell me something and I know that I am not ready to hear it.

image of milky way

I reach the emergency exit door and slam the handle into the steel as a whistle blares over the hospital intercom. I stand there suspended in the moment until the sheen of my black shipboard steel toe boots catches my eye.  

Outstanding shine.

The whistle sounds again, and I relax against the door jamb. One foot in, one foot out. 

        "Reveille, reveille! All hands heave out and trice up. The smoking lamp is lighted in the port break. Now, reveille." 

The boatswain’s mate announces that it is 7 a.m., and time to wake up onboard USS O’Kane (DDG77).

I’m on deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, in the middle of the Persian Gulf.

I hear a wave hit the hull behind my head.

I can’t move.

My eyes start to open from the dream, but I am stronger than that part of me that was running from her in my dream. I want to know what she has to say.

No. No, no, no. Go back. Please! I force my eyes closed.  

There she is again, wearing a red-and-white-striped Winnie the Pooh dress.

“Ireland,” she whispers. “You have to go to Ireland.