XIV. February 1, 2020

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With my hands on my knees, I cough to expel the water from my lungs, but nothing is there. In fact, I'm able to take a deep breath of cool air laced with the smell of creosote bushes. My fear subsides to the overwhelming feeling of arriving home.

I straighten and take in the familiar scenery—the red rock mountain, the palm trees, and the familiar intersection down the street from my house. The clouds disperse from my memories and slowly solidify. I recall the faces of my loving parents and summers spent under the blistering sun of the Arizona desert. Birthdays, friends, graduation, it's all forming into clear visions in my mind's eye.

Filled with pure elation, I turn to cross the street and catch sight of Sage. He stands on the corner diagonal from me, flashing in and out of view by the cars racing through the intersection.

"Sage!" I yell, but he stays locked in place.

Eager to join him, I tap the crosswalk button. But when the indicator gives me permission to cross, I find myself locked in place by a recent memory.

My mom calling to invite me to dinner.

Putting on my favorite hoodie—the gray one from my visit to New York City.

Running out the door to my car and having to go back inside because I forgot my wallet.

Catching my favorite song on the radio.

Now the day bleeds
Into nightfall

Singing off key because I never could carry a tune.

Getting stuck behind a slow-moving minivan.

And you're not here
To get me through it all

Reaching a traffic light.

Green.

A winter day just like this one

A cherry-red Jeep.

With wide eyes, I look up and watch as my black Jetta glides through the intersection. My heartbeat pounds in my throat as the Jeep runs the red light. The blasting of car horns and the screeching of tires. I turn, the strap of my seatbelt digging into my neck, as the grill of the Jeep speeds toward the driver's side door. The impact is numbing and yet filled with excruciating pain. My head whips to the side; my legs bend in unnatural ways, the breath punched from my lungs and replaced with a coppery liquid that eases up my throat.

My Jetta and the Jeep spin in the middle of the intersection in a chaotic dance.

I let my guard down
And then you pulled the rug

The song on the radio blares from my demolished Jetta, and I stand staring at the Jeep. The driver's arm hangs out the window with a cell phone in his grip before his fingers go slack and it crashes to the street. Despite the voice screaming inside my head for me to turn away, I look through the cracked windshield at the bloody face with eyes open and void of life.

I stop inhaling and exhaling and meet the same bright blue gaze over the tangled wreckage.

I was getting kinda used to being someone you loved.

Sage is the reason I no longer exist within this span of time.

Sage is the reason I no longer exist within this span of time

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