20 years old, two boys deep, and she’s just married. Late night shifts at the diner pay for her bad habits, and his.
Home is a trailer on the South side of town. There he sits on his Keystone throne, too lazy to give a fuck about giving a fuck.
It’s 2 a.m., and as the little ones have finally fallen asleep on the hardwood floor, he puts his game on pause and he rolls his first joint since dinner. Taking a puff, he sets it down to burn another hole in the recliner, and another hour from the night.
It’s 2:15 now, and she forgot some kid’s bacon. He gave her a hard time. She’s in the cooler now wondering if her sons got snacks before bed. She tries hard to remember the last time she was home to tuck them in. Before she can cry, the microwave goes off—bacon is done.
It’s 3 a.m. His snoring startles him and wakes him up. The boys are resting soundly and he figures he should find some food. The refrigerator is barren, and the cupboards empty. He grabs his keys off the counter and a beer from the pack. He pushes open the screen door and gets on his bike. He starts it up, revs it up, and heads to Wal-Mart for a bag of chips and a candy bar.
It’s 3:02 and she gets shorted for the third time in a week. She looks in her apron—into her tips—to pay for the remainder of the shorted bill. She realizes she doesn’t have the cash for this, and tells her shift manager so. They bicker, he accuses, and she denies. The line is drawn, but she won’t budge. Predictably, she retreats; she hands in her nametag and walks out the front door. She starts her car and heads home to be with her little sleeping angels. Tears flowing now, like blood from bullet holes, she turns onto Highway 915 and speeds off.
It’s 3:10 and the city lights in the distance are getting blurry. He snaps his head for clarity, but his attempts are futile. Sooner, the darkness will envelope his body and his mind once more.
It’s 3:11 and lighting a cigarette has never been so difficult. Her hands and lips trembling, the cigarette falls to the floor. Shit. And she quickly reaches down to pick it up.
His front tire crosses the center line.
Before she lights, she wipes the tears from her eyes.
Before he can shake his head again…
Before she has a second to notice…
The heartbreaking thing, however, is not how people die, but rather, how they live. Middle class America needs a wake up call. And frighteningly enough, tragedies like this occur ever single day. Though notice is quickly taken, it is dismissed even more so. No one feels a thing until they are meant to. No one makes a change until they are taught how. No one knows the truth until they are shown the way.