I will be posting a story a day for a good while. These short-stories and shorts will likely be a part of the next collection in the Worked Stiff Series, Worked Stiff: Short-Stories to Tell Your Boss. This one, “The Nail” will hit home if you or anyone you know has been addicted to opiates. Your feedback is always appreciated. Happy Reading!
I was driving but I couldn’t quite figure out what to do next. Just drive, eat the road, and listen to that tire. The clack clack sounded like someone disappeared inside the hot rubber and was using a monotonous bang in the hopes of getting out. I offered the deputy on duty and the head nurse a less than stellar excuse to leave before I came upon my car and I saw it, that shiny little piece of metal protruding out of my hot tar of a summer afternoon. I immediately said to myself that I couldn’t drive with that tire and my next thought was to commandeer another car in the lot as if everyone left their keys under the sun visor like they did in the movies. Or, I thought it might be just great, even better, if I could steal a Sheriff’s cruiser and put on the lights as I drove mach eight down the interstate. None of these great ideas came to fruition as I frantically tossed my blond hair around the parking lot. I settled on driving my own Chevy Aveo instead.
I thought about tugging at the nail, pulling it right out of that rubber and leaving it to glint off the hot tar. I felt the head of it between my index finger and thumb before I got in and pulled away before I could do more damage. I remembered someone telling me, perhaps my father, when it came to nails or screws in your tire, rule number one was- don’t touch it. Rule number two was- get busy having it fixed, right away. I knew the actual repair would only be twenty bucks or so at any tire shop, of which I passed about thirty of them on the way to my destination. I just didn’t have the time. Every moment that went by left me more and more in a tizzy. I thought about Gabe sitting there behind bars, a victim of county cops south of the big city. I knew what they were like, I worked for them. I could not believe what he had done this time, but the thought of blaming him just wasn’t there. The only track that my mind was on was that of a solid rescue mission.
I worked as a nurse in the female ward of the Sheriff’s county lockup to the north, at least one solid hour of driving to Gabe, and that was without traffic. Most of my days were spent dealing with two extremes, either the overcooked drug user who was lucky just to be alive and stable, the state really didn’t have the time or money to put them in a real hospital. The other extreme I had to deal with were the fights that occurred and the endless wounds that were their aftermath. Every day, three or four ladies would try their luck and get ahold of some contraband or drugs, but time behind locked, heavy doors made them weak and overreaching. They would fight over whatever it was and I would have to deal with the end result. When I graduated from two years of nursing school, I never imagined that I would take such a filthy job. All nursing was dirty to some degree but this was on another level. I spent so much time putting in stitches next to ones that were already there. My job was demeaning, hard labor, and I never left that parking lot with any kind of satisfaction, never any purpose, until that day.
As I blazed a trail going south on the highway, I thought about Gabe, yes, and how he needed to be rescued. The mission, I was focused on the mission, but I also couldn’t get away from that damn tire. The noise went away after I exceeded thirty miles per hour but I knew the nail was still there. What I didn’t know was whether my shiny metal friend was sinking itself deeper into that small clown circle on my Chevy or if I snapped its head off when I hit that pothole on the ramp getting on the interstate. I drove pretty fast on the regular, usually late to work, and always late to meet a friend as a rule. But I never imagined going that fast in such a tiny car.
My dad bought me that little beast when I graduated from nursing school. He thought it would be good on gas. I suppose he was right, but I know he is also thinking about his lead-foot for a daughter roaming around town in a machine with any kind of power would be dangerous for those around me. Little did he know that I would grind around town anyway as if I drove a Camaro, or my favorite, the Firebird, I always wanted a Firebird. Dad certainly didn’t know how fast I was going then with that nail in my tire. I can only imagine what he would have said if he had been in the passenger seat, holding on for dear life, the way he always did when I drove since those first lessons. His only little girl going down to rescue her boyfriend who escaped from expensive rehab only to be found by the police screaming and carrying on outside of a drugstore at two in the morning.
My parents never approved of Gabe. Heck, he pissed them off when he was sober. But after Gabe broke his jaw driving around the back woods on a four-wheeler without a helmet, he had the unfortunate opportunity of being addicted to opiates. This he took up with a great cause, which affected both of our lives and ultimately made my parents hate him more than I thought possible. For a while, before Gabe got caught with a stolen shotgun, before he got a first offender’s pass and went into court-ordered rehab, I knew I hated him too. He stole my iPad. Well, to be fair, he actually ordered my iPad, a nice birthday gift months before his accident, before everything changed. If he did sell my present for real money, it would have been pennies on the dollar. The only kind of currency Gabe really wanted was pills.
I remember it was hard for him to eat at first because he could only have the shakes that I made, his parents weren’t around to take care of him, nobody was. I tried to make a hamburger shake one time but he preferred the peanut butter and jelly overall. It was so nice for a while, having a boyfriend who couldn’t yell and complain about my cooking. All of his meals went to a little bit of slurry that he sipped through a big giant straw that the hospital gave out. Eventually, Gabe did complain about pain and about not being able to sleep or the position of his head. He would moan through the wires in the night and I would try to help him, but I knew what he really wanted, what he thought that he needed. He wanted more pills. I was a young nurse but I had seen it a hundred times. Doctors prescribe them and they do their job, but nobody ever thought about the after. Pills that he started eating in powder form were crushed up in my shakes. I tried to ration him as best I could, but he would get cranky and I wasn’t there all the time. I didn’t know that while I was at work, Gabe was finding the stash, crushing them up and snorting them straight to the dome. After a time he graduated, without my knowing, he began stealing syringes for my work bag. He would crush up the pills, burn them like a free baser and inject the sweet juice directly into his veins.
This was the point when I started to freak out. I had known Gabe almost my entire life. We grew up together in the same neighborhood, we played in the same cul-de-sacs, and we jumped on the same trampoline. We went to the same school and eventually we both grew up, only in different ways. Gabe didn’t necessarily have any kind of direction in his life. His parents split during our senior year and they both left. Funny, at least one of them usually stays. His family’s pipe fitting business that Gabe was destined to one day lead was busted up too, most of the proceeds going to the attorneys I guessed. I begged and begged, and my parents let him live in our basement and finish out our last year of high school. That decision was against their better judgment, especially my father’s. He didn’t want to see his only daughter pregnant before he felt ready, but at the time, I wouldn’t take no for an answer. I even threatened to drop out and move in with Gabe. How gallant and how naïve I was then.
We made memories together, prom, driving, and sex for the first time that cold winter break afternoon when my parents were at work. Gabe and I seemed to be both lost and satisfied about being lost, the same way most teenagers are. I bought into the whole college thing, but I was the only one who talked about going. I did go and Gabe and I were serious, beating my Dad’s odds that I couldn’t do both, be serious with a boy and go to college at the same time. Gabe usually held one or two part-time jobs and I carried most of the burden of rent, groceries, and bills with my college money. This was where most of the animosity toward Gabe started, my parents’ feelings for charity had run out and they grew tired of supporting them. This was always a point of contention between us but I was used to throwing fits and getting my way.
After I finished my short but useful degree, we were both twenty, living together in a one-bedroom apartment in a complex, but only I had a job. A job with prospects that I hated but it was always there. I was paying my dues by working at the jail. Gabe always had some kind of harebrained scheme that he was cooking up, the next great investment strategy. He was susceptible to those pyramid schemes, usually confusing them for a real job. He never really concerned himself with keeping steady employment, starting a career. I tolerated this because, well, I suppose I didn’t know any better. Gabe reminded me of the innocence of our youth, lost to the world’s consideration of young adults. I could see my young, playful self in him and I knew he saw the same in me. I loved him. I loved him and we both had a singular passion- a game we’ve been playing since the start- an online fantasy world where we could continue growing and playing together, just like in the cul-de-sacs of our youth.
This fantasy world we shared every day after I got out of work. We played for hours together, even on separate machines in the same room, as if we were kids all over again. Sure we were kids, but after we were done with games for the night, we got to drink real alcohol and had real sex, our feet playfully straddling the doorway of adulthood and innocence. What a life.
I thought about all these things, our short but warm history as I blazed a trail down the interstate. I wanted things to go back the way they were before his injury and my mind tossed between that wish and the hope that my tire would hold until I got there to save him. I never had a tire blow before, only heard about people who had to wrestle with their steering wheel after a big blow, especially on the highway. I had seen them before, poor saps clinging to the side of the road, defeated and waiting for rescue or trying to find all of the tools to put on the hopeful spare. I was driving down the far left lane, dodging the odd car that refused to move over despite my petty honking from my little car, my little bat out of hell. I hated those people who hung out there, who drove just above the speed limit and thought it would be enough to justify themselves in the left lane. Whenever I could, I would take the carpool lane just to maintain speed and zing by traffic, even if I had no one else with me. I passed another car who refused to submit to the left position and sped up even more as I thought about Gabe going crazy in that county jail. He didn’t belong there. They didn’t know his problems, not like I did.
He was probably going insane now or was already after causing a ruckus outside a pharmacy last night after escaping from rehab. I have no idea why he did that, how he thought that would help his situation, but the drug had obviously taken him back over. His needy brain was like some kind of a three-year-old whose toy got taken away.
I saw this behavior many times before in my own county lockup. There was really no difference between women and men with regard to addiction except that women seemed to be a little more cunning when it came to hiding contraband and getting drugs on the inside. They would readily use their female prowess to get what they wanted too, I heard about it happening at my own jail. What was that sound? I thought I heard the clacking again but it couldn’t be, not at this speed. I pushed harder on the little pedal for good measure, just to be sure my little bubble of a car knew who the boss was.
I assumed that Gabe didn’t find a source on the inside, rehab can be a good thing, and I’ve seen it work for those who are ready. It was obvious that Gabe wasn’t ready, even after the judge gave him a pass on the possession of a stolen firearm charge and let him go to rehabilitation, instead of jail. Rather than accept his good fortune, he was found screaming at otherwise empty storefronts at two in the morning before being picked up by the cops. At least this was what his mother told me. She called frantically, crying into the phone, and I knew that she just couldn’t go down there to get her boy, wouldn’t go was more like it. Both her and his father considered Gabe another failed aspect of their marriage, a product of tragedy. They both moved out of state long before he had problems and always gave the attitude that Gabe made his own dirty bed, and all his favors from his parents were already used up. By now, they both simply pointed fingers at one another for the shortcomings of their offspring, disowning their only son in the process.
His mother counted on me to go down there and fix the problem so she wouldn’t have to be bothered. We got the wind that she was about to be married again anyway, a fresh start, a clean break. I was aware that she knew that I would try to fix this. Every minute that went after she called during my smoke break was far too long for Gabe to wait. I knew this due to my keen understanding of the penal system. Gabe wouldn’t last long in there. He would likely dig a deeper hole for himself, which was why I was still weaving in and out of cars. Still, I couldn’t stop thinking about that damn tire and I felt like I was walking with a cane or something, an ailment that gave me a limp, but I ran anyway.
I already emptied my bank account, somewhere in between the highway and work, knowing that it would take at least two grand to get Gabe out of jail and back into rehab where he really belonged. I had the money and I would just have to deal with how to pay rent later. What I absolutely did not have was a true understanding of what I would do with him once I got him in my car. Would I ask him to fix my tire before going back to rehab? Gabe would probably say that he wanted to get a cheeseburger and duck out the first chance he could get at the drive through, giving me some kind of excuse later. These things I didn’t really know, the proper way to handle a junkie who was also your lover. I wasn’t a psychiatrist, I wasn’t a drug counselor. I was only an underpaid nurse who was really good at stitching up drunks. Everybody knew that I was cutting my teeth at the county jail, that’s what most nurses did before they went to work at the hospital or another place. Once I started that job, I did go a little crazy because I was still so green. I hadn’t seen firsthand addiction, abuse or any of that other stuff that used to just be in the textbooks, assigned homework for those who cared. We were overworked, underappreciated, and underfunded. Could that experience possibly prepare me for dealing with Gabe? One thing that I did know was that in his hysteric state, he would say anything to get me to help him find what he needed.
I wasn’t a complete idiot and I knew that Gabe would not be Gabe when I picked him up. I knew that I would want the previous version of him, that version that stayed up with me until two in the morning playing games, drinking and having a good time before going upstairs for a knock on the bed post. Or, an even more innocent one if I was going to be nostalgic, the Gabe that taught me how to ride a skateboard in our driveway when we were nearing graduation. I wanted some kind of version, one I knew I wouldn’t get if I made it there if this tire held just long enough. Heck, I could distract him even, a girl in distress, make him put on my spare while I cried and thought about the real plan to trick him back into rehab.
The thing that made me ponder what kind of hellcat version of my lifelong friend and current boyfriend I would find, was what he said about a year ago when I told him that I might be pregnant. I couldn’t really figure out the right time to bring it up. I knew that while I could inch by myself somehow, supporting our little family, like some women these days have to, I also knew that he simply wasn’t ready for that kind of change. It was hard sometimes to get him to stop doing whatever he was doing and just talk. I think because we knew each other as kids, we would talk to one another like we were still kids. We treated each other as children and it made us both happy, all part of the appeal. We had our games, but the one day I interrupted one of these games to tell him that I was late, that I got a test from the drugstore and that I thought I was pregnant. I looked through his eyes and saw fear. I didn’t peer into the kind of fear most men have, like in the TV shows. That innocent fear mixed with joy and happiness. I saw a kind of complacent fear and I felt sorry for him. Pity rushed over me while I looked at his reaction as he still held that game controller for dear life. He looked away from me, back to the TV and it was then that I knew I couldn’t have his child.
That memory wrapped in sadness caught me off guard and I felt myself slow down as the creeping heat of bewilderment stormed in like a toxic gas in my little car. That night still represented a very real and very timely memory of my lifelong love who told me with the blink and twitch in the eye that he just didn’t care. Sure, he bucked back once he saw my reaction, but by then it was too late. Of course, he didn’t say any of the right things at the time. He decided nothing after hesitation, instead of giving me one-liners. He made promises like he would go out and find himself a real job and how he would be there for me, for us, and we could start a family and blah, blah, blah. It was just like Gabe to take something and go too far, get exited out of nowhere and make big plans that would never come to fruition. That conversation dragged on for about thirty minutes before he was back playing games again. I went upstairs and cried and I knew I should have ended our relationship right then and there, kicked him out like his parents did, but I loved him and I couldn’t make myself do what needed to be done.
As it turned out, I was late and scared the over the counter test because I just changed birth controls. I tested positive for being pregnant because I have no idea why. These things are made by humans, tested on humans, bought by humans, we are all to blame. I said something like that when I got the real news of my non-pregnancy from my OBGYN and she just stared at me with an empty smile, like she was happy that I wasn’t pregnant. Maybe she thought I was too young, well I was too young and the truth was that I was happy too, relieved.
I wanted to let him go right then and there, even started to think about some kind of exit strategy, a way to get him out of my apartment. After all, I paid for just about everything. While our lives were so intertwined, I was still in charge where the buck stopped, I wasn’t completely stupid. It was just about the same time that I was getting up the gumption to kick him out of my apartment that he had his big accident. The accident, which was not falling down the stairs or scraping your knee, was completely his fault for not wearing a helmet. I and other females in his life told him so after the fact but I just couldn’t help myself. I had to help him, it was part of my nature.
I nursed him along and made his smoothies after working all day, basically doing the same thing for strangers. That was Gabe, we grew up together and I owed him at least a good healing before dumping and sending him back to somebody’s couch. Even while he was in rehab, I fought the urge to go there at night and read a bedtime story and tell him everything was going be all right. I wanted to be the one to give him his medicine, bring him his laptop so we could still play games. He was actually pretty darn nice to me when he called after the second week of his dry spell. He even apologized for selling some of my things, especially my iPad. I still can’t believe he actually did that. I so want to find that stupid drug dealer who has those pictures of me which are probably being sold somewhere too.
While not entirely a beauty queen, I have always been proportional, even while being a tad overweight. That card comes with the territory of being a nurse. I sit around a lot and I smoke. Unfortunately, when I go home, I sit around and I smoke some more. I’m still very pretty but thick where it counts and I can only imagine some drug dealer jerking off to the pictures I had saved on my iPad, which were supposed to be for Gabe. Gabe, who sold my iPad, knowing that the pictures were on there. Gabe, who was slowly and steadily losing his mind to that drug once prescribed by his family doctor, our family doctor.
He was so sweet during the first few weeks of rehab. I think he started to realize just how lucky he got after getting caught with the stolen firearm which was used in an actual armed robbery. That armed robbery case, where witnesses swore to the police that the person who had brandished the sawed-off shotgun in front of the gas station counter was black. Otherwise, Gabe would have easily been charged with that as well, judges and prosecutors just love to clump charges together in order to make at least one of them really stick. He must have begun to realize this in rehab and I thought that he was really happy, he sounded happy when he called. We didn’t get to play our favorite game on the computer when I visited but we did get to play chess at least. He was in such high spirits and happy to see me when I visited. He also wrote me a couple of really sweet letters when I missed his call while I was at work. These letters I hoped to read to our children one day, about that time when we needed to explain and show the dangers of drugs like one of those cheesy family sitcoms that tackle real problems head on and in a positive light, the ones we grew up watching as kids.
I was willing to take him back at that time, make it work. I would help him like I always did, nurse him to good health again and we could move on. There was one thing that I couldn’t stop thinking about, that little itch that bothered me, what I mentioned before. That look on his face when I told him that I thought I was pregnant. I wasn’t pregnant at all but the flush over his eyes was sort of like the nail in my tire, it wasn’t immediately dangerous but I knew it would cause me hell later on. It wasn’t some kind of lone gunmen waiting to pull the trigger at any moment from a distance, killing his target instantaneously. It wasn’t the desperate bite of a rattlesnake in the swamps-killing you before you ever happened upon an ambulance. His look, his initial look after I told him I was pregnant, was about like the shine on that nail, glimmering in the hot sun as I walked out of work to save him. Shining like the little undoing that it was and saying: you had big plans today but I’m going to sit here because I already was here and because somebody put me here or you ran over me where I was accidently on the ground.
Who knows why I saw that shiny nail that day and not another, it could have been there for three weeks for all I knew. I parked in a gravel driveway at home and the way it had been raining, I might not have noticed that perpetrator until that day, that time when I was to save Gabe, the maker of nails. That look, Gabe just had to give that look, the same look you hear about when people bolt out their door and tell their neighbors that they set their own house on fire, never thinking to grab the fire extinguisher from the top of the fridge to put out the blazing grease. They don’t, they just stand outside and watch it burn, watch the firetrucks come and watch their lives disappear. Flames lick through all their small pictures and all their keepsakes and all they had to do was pull out a nail.
I could see Gabe’s head on that nail going around and around and around, tick tick as I left the parking lot. I wondered if it happened on purpose, I wondered if one of those stupid, nosey nurses tried to save me after my smoke and tried to blow my tire. I thought about the shiny bastard sinking deeper into my tire, penetrated each layer, pulsing further and further in with each turn of the wheel. Just like a man, I thought, all shiny and nice for the sole purpose of getting as far up into you as they could go.
Removing the nail in that parking lot before I left was like trying to remove Gabriel from my life. Both were dangerous and necessary. This decision to stop, to let Gabe be and go about my life, I fought with for a moment, the struggle all I could fathom, that is of course until the tire actually blew and I completely lost control of my car.
I remembered the moment when I was thinking about turning right around, going back home and cracking open a bottle of rum and just calling it quits. Sure, I could do that and only that, at least until tomorrow’s shift, take it one day at a time. Then, I could get back to work, get my mind back to something other than Gabe and forget the fact he was ruining his own life, not mine. That thought crossed my mind and if there had been near an exit ramp I would’ve got off right then and there, crossing over the divide and headed back north to my house. I was already plagued with him anyway, I might as well take the time to really think about all the events and choices that I’ve made so far, really think about Gabe the way he was, the way he looked at me that day.
Of course, his mother would be sobbing to me on the telephone later but I wouldn’t have to answer the call right away. I could just tell her like it was, that mousy bitch, that if she cared for her son, she would have gone there herself without her husband’s permission to pay the damn bail. That was my last thought, Gabe’s stupid mother and what I would say to her in the split second before my tire blew. That or I would call my girlfriend Jennifer. We might have some daiquiris and sit outside, get a tan in the backyard of my townhouse. She could come over and the only rule would be that she couldn’t talk about Gabe, nothing about Gabe. We would laugh and giggle, even take our tops off, drinking strong daiquiris until we would order pizzas by eleven and watch some kind of scary movie. That’s exactly what I wanted to do, what I was going to do if there was an exit ramp right there. The thought of Gabe’s mother and my big plans hurt my brain when the moment struck through the steering wheel, into my arms and I wrestled with all of those petty decisions.
Instead of an exit ramp, there was a blown out tire. I remembered thinking oh shit here it is, here’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for folks, like some kind of game show host in my brain. This is a reroute dummy, you thought about your life too much, time to come back down and realize you’re gonna die. My arms gave up the fight, I was doing at least eighty-five when the tire blew, and I had another moment’s pause, even wished I could just continue the rescue mission as planned. What happened to the plans?
What a jerk. That’s what I thought of him, the same feelings about that nail in my tire which had to be there to hold the air in but never should have been there in the first place. I confirmed this comparison for my own peace of mind until another fear struck and all I could see was that curved guardrail coming at me like a freight train. Or was I charging toward the guard rail?
Was I truly out of control? My arms, they gave up on me as the steering wheel did whatever it wanted under my tired hands. I don’t remember anything after that, I don’t remember the flash of memory like people talk about. I guessed it already happened. I don’t remember the moment my airbag went off, so comical and small, that stupid small car that my father bought. If he really wanted me to be safe, the stout body of giant SUV would have been better, even if it guzzled gas. If my father really wanted me to be safe, he would have told me to absolutely go ahead and see that nice boy Gabe. If he had just called Gabe a nice boy at least one time, I might not have struggled to begin with. Instead, he forbade me to see Gabe in the first place, he bought me that small death trap and there I was.
I had no sense to blame myself, I sat in my car with the guard rail cutting metal over my head and complained about my own father. I suppose that is my right as an ungrateful daughter. I remember the guard rail, my car wincing and smoking at the sudden stop of life. I know some people who have a really terrible car accident that survived the horror, they only remember coming into the ambulance or the hospital.
I remember waking up all by myself I couldn’t move my head, my airbag went off and it was small, like Steve Urkle’s balloon airbag in that stupid show from the nineties. I remembered it had gone off right in my face, my pretty nose taking the brunt. I also couldn’t move my head because above my head was my almost killer, a guard rail cut straight through my windshield and right over my pretty blond hair. I knew that I ducked, somehow, instinctively, saving my own life but I’m not quite sure. I do know that if I had better genes that would have made me a few inches taller, I probably would’ve lost part of my head, brains splattered all around the seats of the car.
Speaking of my car, a Chevy Aveo is not necessarily something you want to blow a tire in, especially going eighty-five plus down the highway in the left lane. The last thing you want to do then is run headfirst into a guardrail. These cars were clearly made to fit into the gaps between the hot cement and metal protectors. I don’t know why anybody thought they should make that car and as I came to, I felt like a dummy going through a simulation crash. That crash test without curtain airbags and all the other safety features, only plastic and a hope for the best. In a bright light, the heat of the day squelched my bruised body and I could feel. Yeah, I remember that being good, the ability but not what I could feel, that wasn’t good. I stirred but I couldn’t hear anything, and I was alone.
I also thought that any moment, some idiot texting could smash right into me. I was pretty relieved when I heard the sirens because I couldn’t move my head and because I knew I would be with company soon. I couldn’t move, didn’t want to move and just stared at the hot metal of the guard rail inches above my head.
Someone came in a uniform and spoke softly to me. I don’t know what he said but I believed every word. I felt safe but tired, my mouth tasted like blood and my nose still stung something awful. I remember the loud creek of my door being pried open and instead of pulling me out like a rescue dummy, I stepped out of my car myself, as if I was in a hot parking lot and forgot my keys but still needed to get groceries. I was checked out by a cute paramedic while still in my own scrubs and I thought we could be friends. I passed the concussion test and he put some ointment on the small gash above the bridge of my nose and the one above my eyebrow. They were amazed at how clear and fluent I was, I amazed myself too, clarity had set in along with the high of adrenaline. I no longer bared the burden which put lead on my shoulders, I did not think about Gabe.
I denied the expensive ride to the hospital and asked the cop who was writing in his little notebook to call me a cab instead. He looked to the paramedic who gave him the thumbs up between taking off his two rubber gloves and complied after I promised I would take the taxi to the hospital.
I remembered sitting in the back of the car, the cab driver and I both marveled at the cheapness of its all, Styrofoam and plastic which had popped out all over the place after my little Chevy took a turn to meet the guard rail head on. I didn’t think than what was beyond the metal, what my fate would have been had it not been there. I only thought if I just had better posture or been a little bit taller and beautiful, I wouldn’t have a head. The sweet cab driver was concerned for me after seeing what I had just been through. He thoughtfully mentioned a nearby hospital after pulling away from the scene. I saw an empty wrecker with its lights on, coming up the other lane past the center divider, and I wondered what my father would say about the wrecked gift, and whether I would tell him about the shiny nail sticking out of my tire so many miles ago.
“No,” I said, “I want to go home,” and gave over my address. He persisted, taking a hard, concerned look in the mirror at my face with the gashes and the trauma. “I’ll be fine,” I said, “I’m a nurse and I’m ready to go home.” The taxi driver complied with a sigh and rambled on for a bit about my car, the lost cause destined for a junkyard. I never thought about that nail or Gabe again and I never looked back.