“Spend all your time waiting for that second chance, for the break that’ll make it ok…”
The early morning light was just beginning to change from grey to pink when the call came.
Buried in the comforter, dog curled at my feet, I was sleeping the sweet sleep of the one who gets to stay in bed longer. The one who has drifted gratefully back to dreamland after kissing their loved one goodbye in the morning. My fiancé had to be at his factory job at 5:30 but I was a student and waitress and this semester my classes didn’t start till 10. The house was warm and peaceful and still smelled of coffee from his breakfast. Life hadn’t always been so sweet. Just two months before, we were so poor that his coworkers were bringing us charity boxes of food from their church out of pity. I said it wasn’t right to take the food, we were agnostic, but they said “What you are is hungry,” and pushed it into our arms.
“There’s always some reason to feel not good enough and it’s hard at the end of the day…”
We shouldn’t have bought the house, but we were 20 years old and in love and we knew everything, knew we could work and go to school and remodel and party and pay our bills and be so happy! Six months in, we’d learned just how little we did know, about time management, money management, installing drywall. At our poorest, Jay left school and took the job at the factory just to make ends meet. He had been an engineering major and now he was waking before dawn to grind out machine parts for farm equipment. At night he’d come home, metal splinters in his fingertips, lathe lubricant blackening his nails and, exhausted, we’d hammer down a sub floor until midnight, trying to beat the clock on our construction loan.
“I need some distraction, oh beautiful release. Memory seeps from my veins…”
Neither of us grew up rich but we didn’t expect to be cut off. Both our parents turned their backs when we signed the deed to the house. “You wanted to be an adult? Well, be one,” my mom said coldly when I called her begging for money, when my car died, leaving us with just one vehicle to make the hour commute to school. My car died, and then Jays. The house was taking too long to fix and too much money. We were hungry, we were broke. She said God was punishing us, that when you did something against His plan, He made life hard on you. I told her I didn’t believe in God, especially not that God, and we’d get by without her help and his too!
“Let me be empty, and weightless and maybe I’ll find some peace tonight”
We scrabbled and barely made it until January when my student loan came in and I could finally buy a new transmission, hire someone to install carpeting. Suddenly, we had two cars, and the house was coming together and there was hope again. It was amazing how much more we could accomplish with the second car! I could get a job. Our relationship had suffered because of all the turmoil but we were going to find us again. That’s where I was, where we were, when the phone shook me awake that morning.
“Ms. Morgan? Ms. Morgan, this is St. Mary’s hospital in Athens. We have your fiancé here. There’s been an accident.”
Sick. My mouth went dry and my stomach was instantly sick.
“Jay? You have Jay? What happened? Is he ok? ” The question was high and plaintive, a scared little girl’s voice ringing in the stillness of our house.
“He’s ok, a little banged up…”
I cut her off. “Can I talk to him? Put him on the phone!”
There was a shuffling and Jay came on the line.
“Lisa, I’m here. I’m ok. I have a cut on my forehead but...” he began.
“Jay, what happened?” I started to shake, so relieved that he wasn’t dead or in a coma, dismembered by factory equipment.
“I fell asleep on the way to work and rolled the car down a hill, babe. I lost my glasses. Some guys from the power company picked me up and took me to the hospital.”
I fretted for a moment. He was blind without those glasses! Then I realized what he said.
“What about the car? What happened to the car?” I asked, fearful of his response.
“I don't know. I couldn't see. I couldn’t open my door so I crawled out the passenger side window. But I didn’t have to roll it down…”
O.K. So Jay was fine, but the car was not.
“I’m coming to get you. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
I should have been thrilled but I was gritting my teeth. I got out of bed and slowly put on my clothes, fear and sadness and anger roiling inside of me. Totaled. That sounded like a totaled car. Jesus, we were back to just one vehicle again. Just when I thought things were improving, our tiny foundation was already crumbling. How were we going to make it work now?
I drove to Athens in a silent car, wondering why and how and what had brought us to this point of imprisonment and how we were going to get free. When the screeching of my own panicked monologue grew too loud in my head, I turned on the radio. A commercial break was just ending and the sweet sound of Sarah McLachlan's Angel filled the car. When the song began, I started to cry.
"In the arms of an angel
Fly away from here
From this dark cold hotel room
And the endlessness that you fear
You are pulled from the wreckage
Of your silent reverie
You’re in the arms of the angel
May you find some comfort there."
The wreckage. Of the car, of our hopes. That word broke me in half. Not in sadness, but fury. I slid the car to a crunching stop in the gravel beside the road and started to scream out at the still, blue sky. I railed at God, banging the steering wheel with my fists, tears streaming down my face.
“WHY? God, WHY are you doing this to us? What have I ever done to you? Are you so angry that we live together, that we bought a house? Why are you punishing us? What do you want from me? Why do you take everything away?”
I waited, but there was no answer. I sobbed softly, head hanging, allowing the last bars of the song to flow over me, through me, my weariness a pit in my chest.
And there, at my lowest point, a still, small voice murmured in my ear.
“Why are you raging at a God you don’t even believe in? If He doesn’t exist, why are you so angry at him?”
Like a camera shutter clicking, my very existence skipped into a new frame. The morning sun spilling over the fields, my shaky breath, my pounding heart all slid into focus with Technicolor clarity. I unclenched my hands from the steering wheel and stared at the upturned palms resting in my lap.
“Why indeed,” I answered, aware that this was not the end, but a new beginning.