Tricia - Regrets (1703 words) My eyes opened. I had no idea where I was. The room I was laying in was very dark. I wondered if I was blind or dreaming. I tried to move. I couldn’t feel my legs. I had sensation in my arms but when I tried to lift them, they wouldn’t move and it was then I felt the metal restraints around my wrists. I tried to turn my head but could not. My eyes moved easily but my head was frozen in place. I felt the icy tentacles of panic lace through me. Where the hell was I? How did I get here? I wanted to drift back into that warm nothingness, but my panic wouldn’t let go. “Help me!” I croaked to the empty room. “Where am I?” The door opened wide and the accompanying bright light sent sharp pains through my eyes and made my head hurt. “You’re awake!” I tried to nod my head but it seemed impossible. “Yes” croaked from my throat. There followed a flurry of activity. Hospital workers clad in green buzzed around me, prodding me. A portable light was shone into my eyes, causing more throbbing inside my head. Fingers were on the pulse in my wrist, I had a gizmo pushed into my ear and a blood pressure cuff tightened around my forearm. “Wait” I tried to raise my arm but couldn’t. “Could you talk to me please?” A woman in stained greens removed her glasses and looked into my eyes. “What would you like to know Mr. Hampstead?” Hampstead; my name was Richard Hampstead. “What’s wrong with me? Where am I and how did I get here?” She paused and stared at me, her face looked tired and more than a little angry. “You were in a car accident and were brought here by ambulance. I really can’t tell you much else.” These details of my life were not part of my memory. This angry-faced woman knew far more about me at that moment than I did. I closed my eyes again and tried to block out the team checking every part of my body. Details of my recent history started to work their way into my conscious mind. Yesterday I broke up with my girlfriend Sally. Her tear-stained face appeared in my memory. All the emotion of that encounter still felt heavy on my chest. I loved Sally but I was frightened by how serious we had become. I wasn’t ready for a wife or a committed relationship. I still had wild oats to sow and good times to enjoy with my friends. Each time I had discovered something perfect about her, and the list was long, I took a step back. I didn’t want to be seriously entangled with anyone, even this beautiful, perfect woman. I knew it was destined for failure. My score sheet on relationships showed I was batting zero. I had believed at that moment that it would be better for both of us if I moved on, so I had ended our relationship. She had sat quietly with big fat tears rolling down her cheeks and dropping from her chin onto her clenched hands. She listened with her head bowed, not responding to anything I said. I felt as if I was beating her with my words, abusing her with my voice. If only I hadn’t broken up with Sally. I had spent the rest of that day in my favorite old tavern near my ratty apartment. I liked the familiar atmosphere. Most of the patrons knew each other and most of them were old-timers talking about the good old days. I listened to their chatter and to the football game playing from the big screen television on the wall. The first drink was a gift from the friendly bartender with the crinkly eyes. When he had seen my face as I slid onto one of the leather-topped stools, he hadn’t even asked, just plunked a shot glass of fine whiskey in front of me. If only I hadn’t sat at that bar and downed glass after glass of whiskey. When I opened my eyes again, rays of sun shone through the slim opening of the blinds. I felt more clear-headed than I had been the night before. The scene with Sally was more vivid. I remembered the stumbling awkward way I had broken her heart. And I remembered the bar. But what had I done after that? I closed my eyes and tried to recall the sequence of events. I had stumbled out of the bar, the cold night air slapping me into temporary sobriety. My car was the last one in the small lot. I must have been drinking until they closed. I got in and scraped my bumper trying to back out into the street. I knew immediately that I shouldn’t have been behind the wheel. I’d be ok, I remember reassuring myself. I was more tired than drunk. My eyes hurt. I rubbed them and pulled out onto the street. If only I hadn’t gotten into my car. I drove, but where? Had I driven home? Instead of driving home, I had decided to go back to Sally and beg her forgiveness. I had turned from the side street onto the boulevard, nearly devoid of traffic at this hour. The lights were ill-timed and I had to stop at empty intersection after empty intersection. I remember my mounting frustration. I needed to get back to Sally and beg her to forgive me. I felt certain that the alcohol had made me think more clearly. With the fear tamped down, perhaps my error had become obvious to me. Yet another traffic signal turned red in my path. This was taking far too long. I needed to be with Sally, to hold her in my arms, to stroke her lemon-scented hair. I needed to tell her how very wrong I had been. I needed to tell her of my fear. Perhaps then she would understand why I had been so stupid. If only I hadn’t been in such a hurry. The traffic lights ahead of me all appeared to be green, which meant they would reach the red signal as I approached them. The intersection was vacant. There were no other cars in sight. The signals taunted me with their slowness. First there were right turns only, then pedestrians only, followed by an arrow indicating left turns. Dear God, when was I going to get moving! I edged forward and looked blearily in both directions. I thought the way was clear. I really did. Taking a deep breath, I pushed the accelerator to the floor and the car moved into the intersection. I have no idea what happened. My last clear memory was pressing down on the accelerator. And then I had awakened in the dark room. Someone tapped hesitantly on the door. I turned my eyes and again thought I was dreaming. It was Sally. “Richard, are you awake?” I felt a large lump form in my throat. “Sally” I croaked. She crossed to the bed and put her hands on the railing. “Sally” I said again. “I’m so happy to see you”. She didn’t smile. “I had to see with my own eyes if you were alive”. I laughed, a sound that was harsh and grating. “Of course I am.” “You were in pretty bad shape when they brought you in two days ago”. “Two days? I’ve been here two days?” “You were unconscious. They were afraid you’d slip into a coma because of the trauma.” “What exactly is wrong with me?” “They didn’t tell you?” “They told me I’d been in an accident but that it was a good thing I was awake.” My throat screamed at me from the talking. Perhaps I had been on a respirator. “You had head trauma, broken bones, a collapsed lung. And then the back injury and your legs.” “What’s wrong with my legs?” She looked uncomfortable. “Maybe you should be talking to your doctor about this. I really can’t give you details. I’m not sure of the exact injuries. I know they had to cut you out of your car.” I remembered slipping through the red light. “Did someone hit me?” She lowered the railing on the bed and sat down, taking my manacled hand in hers. “Richard, you went through a red light. There was an 18 wheeler going full tilt through his green light and he hit you broad side, pushing your car into the other lane. There was a motorcycle coming the other way. He couldn’t avoid your car, hit it and flew over it.” “Oh my god! Is he ok?” The pause told me all I needed to know. “He died at the scene.” She swallowed hard, took a deep breath and continued. “The truck driver tried to get you out of your car but couldn’t. Why the heck did you run a red light Richard?” “I was in a hurry to come and see you. I wanted to apologize, to make things right between us.” “I knew you’d come back. I knew that what we had wasn’t just going to go away. But everything is different now.” She sighed and released my hand. “They are thinking of charging you with vehicular manslaughter since you were driving drunk and a man died.” I felt suddenly sick to my stomach. My head pounded. A man was dead because of me. I had thought I was ok to drive. Yet I didn’t remember how many drinks I’d had, in fact I couldn’t even guess. Suddenly, I didn’t care about my lifeless legs or my neck that wouldn’t turn or the headache that wouldn’t stop. My life as I had known it was over. Sally was through with me and for good reason. I was a criminal. A man had died because of my foolishness. No matter what I did from now on in my life, I could never erase this. A family was missing a husband or a father or a brother or a son. And now I had a new wish. If only I had been the one that died.