My heart was racing as I barreled down the interstate in my silver Camaro. Trees zipped by me on the right and the guardrail whizzed by on the left. It was 1:00 A.M. and there were no other cars in sight. I’d had another blowup with my boyfriend and decided to drive to my parents’ house an hour away. At least there I could get some sleep.
My parents knew I was into drugs, but they had no idea how utterly dependent I was on pills and booze to pull me through each and every day. Even if they’d known, they would have been at a loss as to what to do. I took advantage of them, squeezing my father for money even at age 28 and only going to the house when I needed something. And now I needed some peace and quiet. Surely Mom and Dad would be asleep.
I set the cruise control at 85 mph. The New England scenery sped by as I sat stupefied behind the wheel. I was so tired. The handful of uppers I’d swallowed hadn’t done the trick. No matter how many different drug combinations I tried I never seemed to be able to find the right mix. For energy I’d pop a handful of amphetamines, then end up shaking and sweating, my heart racing. To offset the rush I’d drink beer after beer until I’d smoothed out the edges.
For a while.
Then I’d start the whole cycle again, desperately seeking the soothing plateau drugs were supposed to offer. Now I had to keep shaking my head to stay awake. It wasn’t really working, though.
Open your eyes.
You’re going to die.
What are you doing to yourself?
My head lolled. The car swerved to the left. I heard a scraping noise. The Camaro vibrated. I was grazing the guardrail!
I snapped to and straightened the wheel. Stay awake! I told myself. Soon I was nodding off again. Darkness swept over my brain. My head dropped to the steering wheel. I could hear the tap-tapping of my car against the guardrail, over and over again. I just need to rest…
An electric zap stung my right shoulder. I jumped and whipped my head up. Gripping the wheel, I stared ahead. No cars. Then I searched the rearview mirror. There wasn’t a car behind me either. If something jutting out of the metal guardrail had caused that electric shock, I was in no shape to figure it out. At least the sensation had roused me. I snapped on the radio and cranked it up as loud as it would go. Then I turned the air-conditioning up too. I checked the rearview mirror again. Shining there was a pinpoint of light. Some kind of weird reflection, I figured.
I adjusted the mirror. The light was still there, tiny and white, and in a constant but almost undetectable spinning motion. It mesmerized me. An electric charge again shivered through me. It ran from my right shoulder on down through my entire body, as if the light itself had grabbed me and shook me to my senses. But this time I wasn’t grazing the guardrail. The tiny ball slowed for an instant, just long enough for me to see that it had wings beating at its sides. I’m here for you, it seemed to say. I’m watching out for you. I glanced back and forth between the road ahead and the light in the rearview mirror. For a few blessed moments it remained, wings blurred once again by the speed at which they were moving. The light faded and then disappeared completely.
I rolled down my window and let the wind slap my face. What was going on? Was I hallucinating? I was scared. Somehow I made it to my parents’ house safely and snuck inside to sleep in my old room.
I woke up worrying about my car. I wanted to see the damage before my parents did so I could come up with some excuse. They’d warned me about getting behind the wheel drunk or high, and I was glad they hadn’t heard me come in. I tiptoed outside.
The Camaro was parked at a crazy angle in front of the house. I walked around to the driver’s side, cringing at what I’d find. But there were no dents. There was no rim damage. Just a white line across the left side of the car. One perfect white line. Then I remembered the winged companion that had been on the ride with me.
In time that seed grew. And in the early, shaky days of sobriety, my vision gave me hope. Today I thank God for not giving up on me when I had given up on myself. Because I was worth saving. We all are.
This story first appeared in the January 2000 issue of Angels on Earth magazine.