When I left the comedy club at 11:30 last night, I could feel the exhaustion pushing in, clouding the corners of my vision. I shook it off – it was only seventy miles to home. Piece of cake.
The tires screamed out a warning as they crossed into the breakdown lane. It had only been twenty miles and I was losing the battle to stay awake. I corrected and gripped the wheel. The windows came down, a cold steady wind buffeting my head as I drove down the dark road at ninety miles an hour. The rain misted the windshield and crept into the car.
It wasn’t enough. Another thirty miles gone and my resistance ebbed. My eyelids turned to concrete, incapable of staying up. It felt like less than a second, which was enough time for my car to stray into the next lane. The road was empty and very straight and my alignment is good, so I told myself that it was okay. I had less than twenty miles to go, and the adrenaline pumping through my veins would fuel me the rest of the way.
With cold air streaming in the windows and music blasting in my ears, I was relieved to exit onto the final stretch of highway. Well-lit and populated by cars, this road was my sign that I’d made it. I was so relieved to be this close to home and this close to my bed. I had gotten lucky, and as I passed through downtown, I relaxed.
Only to open my eyes a second (two seconds? three seconds?) later in the middle of two lanes with my bumper scant inches from the rear of a blue sedan. In those unconscious moments, I had drifted across two lanes of traffic and, had I not woken up, would have bumped into this anonymous driver, causing us to ricochet across the highway at eighty miles per hour. He probably would have spun out in front of me as the rear of my car twisted to the side and headed for the embankment. Maybe he would have braked in time before hitting the rail or maybe the car would have wrenched the guard rail from its foundation as he plowed through it, throwing pieces of rebar and razor sharp concrete through his windshield, impaling him to his seat, killing him instantaneously. I would have hit the soft, wet dirt and grass, my tires digging in, as the momentum from the crash and my speed caused the car to flip over and over again until it crashed into the woods on the side of the road. I would have awoken, screaming in pain as I was trapped inside the crushed metal frame of something that used to be my car.
That is, if I woke up at all.