Pollen From a Daffodil

nonfiction hybrid narrative

my palms sweat,
my heart twinges,
my feet are flat to the ground,
I know I was too late…

There’s no snow on the ground, despite it being December in Chicagoland. It’s a weekday; Christmas is right around the corner. My mind wanders, as I continue to shelve books. I think about the studying I have to do tonight, and the wake service that I will be attending this evening, which can be easily explained from my conversation earlier today.

“Where has Barb been?” I asked.
“…you didn’t hear?” Liz, newest children’s librarian asked.
I just look at her confused.
“Barb’s father died.” Sympathy and curiosity appear on Liz’s face. “Katie and I are meeting up to go to the wake tonight because we both work tomorrow during the burial.”
“Oh.” My mind does not quite register how extreme this situation is as I answer back, “Shit. Wow.” Silence, that’s what should be happening, not the sound of my voice stringing along.

I turn my attention quickly to my mouth. It feels as if my mouth is spewing words that I never thought to utter. It’s so hard to imagine that not only does my tongue taste like that lunch I ate a while ago, but it also tastes bitter as I fumble with my words; it always happens in situations just like this. As I contemplate this, Liz just stares at me, not quite walking away yet. It’s this moment that I feel the unspoken bond between us; we’re both in question. What’s the best thing to do?

For the past twenty-one years I have been to only two wakes – one was an elderly neighbor, one was my brother-in-law. That would make this number three, and it is for the father of a co-worker. I have mixed feelings. Should I go to support my fellow co-worker or would that just be awkward? I don’t know the family at all, just my co-worker. There are a couple other people from work attending, so we agree to meet up at a one of their houses, and to drive to the wake together.

The clock strikes 5:01 PM I put my belongings together and say my goodbyes. It feels as if there is a dark cloud hanging over the librarians in the department and I think it must have to do with the wake. Some of the librarians feel the same things that I feel. Should I or shouldn’t I go?

“See you in a bit,” I lightly say over my shoulder, as I leave the children’s department.

It feels different leaving the children’s department today. It’s like a half out of body experience in the fact that my thoughts play a game of dominos. Thoughts run around my brain, until they stop, and the first domino falls. It is not until the last domino falls that you’re left wondering. Who knocked the first one down? Then the thought pops into my head. How long do my parents have to live? It’s one of those moments that I wished I had that bittersweet tobacco between my lips and fingertips. It is a nice calming to the madness that is slowly surrounding me. A nice pick-me-up/warm-me-up as I trod slowly to my car. My personal soundtrack is a forte of a wind, branches moving across one another rhythmically as if I am the conductor and they are the musicians.

The outside looks like a Chicago winter, minus the snow. Despite the lack of snow, the air is cold enough to slice through your shirt and the sky is sullen enough to suck the sun’s rays. The flora below me had such a will to live that it made even me, the most pessimistic person hopeful. It’s cold, Chicago cold.

The wind was gripping onto me as if letting go of me would mean the end of the world. The wind’s claws sliced at the back of my hoodie. I had been working up a sweat in the children’s department; I had dressed too warm and the department was extra toasty. Why is it the days that I dress for the weather, the heat is randomly turned way up inside? I walk slowly to my car, savoring the clash of the cold air and the perspiration that had lightly soaked through the back of my t-shirt.

I yank open the car door, step in, sit, and pull the door closed. I fasten my seatbelt and put my badge in the driver’s side door pocket, and turn the key to start the ignition. It’s become a routine, something so mundane, that I hardly remember putting the badge in its hiding spot.

VROOOMMM. The car roars to life. The windows fog as my hot breaths dance with the cold temperature outside across the windows. As soon as the windows clear, I put my car into drive and slowly pull out of my spot. I pull my car to the stop sign and stop.

Look left. Look right.
Dark silver minivan straight ahead. Stop.
Look left.

To the left is the police station. It is located on the same street as my library, and is the same street that I live on. The police station didn’t always used to be on this street. It moved when they built their new location, complete with police car parking lot around the back. There is also a curved road between the library and police station. We are no noobs to the police; my family has had multiple calls to the police. The most recent was when my father was going into a diabetic shock from not eating but drinking; I had to call 9-1-1. A police officer in his forties came to help calm my dad calm down as he was slipping away like pollen from a daffodil. That police officer restrained my father, kept him from hurting himself while we waited for the paramedics to arrive.

Look left. Look right.
I start to turn the wheel left, and look left again.

“Oh shit,” I say and my mind momentarily stops. Reactions take control. I feel my head fighting to stand against the headrest. White noise infiltrates my ears breaking through my thoughts into my subconscious without me ever blinking an eye. I lost contact with the world and wondered if the noise was just in my head or actually in the car. As soon as my eyes recognize the flashing lights my body braces for impact. My muscles twitch as if I hold no control over them; slowly they tense waiting for the eventual impact. My mind wishes for a split second that the impact would land me unable to move, trapped in the car, pinned to the door like a mother’s hand to a child’s at a carnival. Unlike what some people may say, time does not slow down, nor do you think a million things. Your mind goes blank and fear takes over. Silently, you wait.

As my car stands idle, the cop car swerves towards me. I sit and thoughts silently buzz like mosquitoes. I know they are there but cannot hear them. My heart pounds and I want time to speed like a dog wants water in the summer sun. I know the impact is near, but my eyes go into tunnel vision; I stare forward and wait.

Thump.Thump.THUMP.THUMP. s    i         l     e    n       c    e-----------------------------            

It happens.

It happens. There is no moving. There are no “what ifs.” All that exists are the facts. For whatever reason I do not see the police car until it was too late and he did not swerve enough to avoid me. There are two witnesses. The police car continues driving down the street, until it stops 10 seconds later.

Silence. It takes over.
There’s no screaming, no thoughts protruding.
The noise of metal to metal surrounds the car.
Your heart pounds.
Your eyes tear.
Fear takes over your brain.
The one thought echoing in your brain,

Will he stop? Should I call the police? How much trouble am I in?

“DON’T DRIVE AWAY. I NEED YOU AS A WITNESS,” says the police officer with wariness in his voice. “You saw her pull out in front of me.”

My mind swims through thoughts like a fish in the sea. What do I do? What is going to happen? Could I have done something to avoid this? Then the blame sets in. You should have seen him, he had flashing lights on. Why didn’t I see the flashing lights until it was too late?