He liked the sound of her high heels. Though she was no longer pacing, he could tell she was still there, every second encroaching upon that moment at 6:55 am when Mrs. Beatrice Darling’s husband would bound down the stairs and meet the district congressman—halfway stuck through the windshield of his car. It was early morning now, before sunrise, and the district congressman began to feel sleepy, knowing he was soon to die.
Mrs. Darling sighed heavily and swayed at the top of the stairs. She’d had two manhattans and a bottle of chardonnay at the pub that night—which was strange because she never drank—so she went to confession afterwards to be forgiven.
“Tell me your sins, my child,” said the priest.
“Everything,” Mrs. Darling had said before bursting into tears, “All of it.”
During the drive home from church, Mrs. Darling did not feel tipsy. Neither did she feel the congressman when he first struck the windshield. It was two blocks before she noticed the windshield wipers were stuck, five blocks more before she discovered why. Instinctively, she returned home—her stowaway in tow—and drove the car quietly into the garage, closing the door behind her.
“I’m sorry, but I can’t let you go. Not yet,” she told him more coldly than she had planned.
“That’s fine,” he said politely, “take your time.” The district congressman laid his bleeding head back down and exhaled loudly. Mrs. Darling did not want to be the authority in this situation, but she needed time to think about what to do.
“Listen,” she said desperately, “I didn’t see you. What were you doing standing in the road?” He didn’t reply this time but continued breathing loudly. It bothered her. “Why are you exhaling so loudly?”
“Sorry,” he said sincerely, “it’s just that—being that I’m in several pieces currently—breathing like this allows the pain… to cease for moments at a time.”
Mrs. Darling said nothing.
“Are those for me?”said the district congressman.
Mrs. Darling looked down at the tray in her lap, the three sandwiches dancing around the glass of milk in the center.
“Yes, I made these for you. Do you think your stomach was one of the organs pierced in the accident?” She hesitated a bit on “accident”.
“I’ll be dead soon so I’m sure it’s no matter,” he half-joked, and like a gentleman, took the sandwich, leaving blood stained prints on the soft, white wonder bread, then coughed up blood on her gown. “I’m afraid I’ve gotten blood on your nice dress”, he said with a look of sincere embarrassment.
“It’s fine,” she lied, wiping off the blood with the second sandwich, “I have three more just like this upstairs, all in blue, too.”
Mrs. Darling tried to remember if she had left the stove on.
She had not.
“So, your son is an honor student?” asked the district congressman.
“How did you know?”
“I saw the sticker on your front bumper as you struck me,” he said offhandedly and then finished the sandwich.
“Yes, Greg is sixteen,” said Mrs. Darling, “he was a good student…three or four years ago.”
“I had a son once,” said the district congressman.
“What happened?” asked Mrs. Darling.
“He died at two. Swimming pool.”
“I’m terribly sorry.”
“Be glad for what you have,” said the almost stranger, which miffed Mrs. Darling.
“You know, I’m not a terrible person,” Mrs. Darling said, “It’s just that you must understand—“
“And I do,” he softly interrupted.
“You don’t! You really don’t because you’re only seeing me in this situation. Any other day you would meet me, you’d leave thinking Wow. Her—She’s a good person,” she said, becoming slightly hysterical, “a great person really. You have to believe I’m a good person…”
“We were all great people,” said the district congressman, “before we weren’t.”
Mrs. Darling said nothing.
“It’ll just be a few hours for the both of us.”
It was then, Mrs. Darling remembered where she had seen this man.
“Are you the district congressman?” she asked, “I’m sorry, I’ve forgotten your name though,” she admitted sheepishly.
“Garza, Joe Garza,” he announced stretching out his hand as a gesture. She took it meekly so as not to get any more blood on herself, “I’ve been a bit of a let down during my time in office.”
“No matter, I didn’t vote for you,” she said without thinking again, and he laughed until he coughed up blood. She tried to recover quickly. “What I meant to say is I didn’t vote at all,” but he didn’t seem offended in the least.
“I’ll tell you what,” he answered coolly, “if you drive me to the spot of the accident, I will gladly hop out of your car and we’ll part ways. You needn’t worry, please, I’m all right. You have showed me nothing but warmth and kindness since I entered your vehicle and for that I am grateful. I will tell the district office it was my fault and that you had nothing to do with anything.”
“I don’t know,” said Mrs. Darling emotionlessly.
“Please, I swear you’ll come to no harm.”
“How can you have control over that?”
“I will do everything in my power,” he said just like in all the news clips and local television commercials. She wanted to believe in his confidence, but he was just another small-time politician.
“I’m sorry, congressman, but I can’t.”
“There’s a pen in my pocket,” he broke out, “it’s in my coat pocket. Get it out for me.”
Mrs. Darling did what she could. The coat pocket was humid inside, hoarding shards of glass on which she cut her fingers while digging out the pen. The congressman’s vision was becoming hazy as he began to write on a stray napkin. Mrs. Darling held it for him as he scribbled away, but the district congressman fumbled the pen and it fell onto the passenger seat, rolling out of reach. Mrs. Darling grabbed for it but he held up his hand to her.
“Just tell her- listen,” he mumbled, his eyes out of focus and breath shallow now, “I didn’t tell you this but- I made a mistake. I jumped in front of your coupe while you were driving. I’m sorry.” She remembered now the dark figure cast in the coupe’s headlights as she sped that corner. Mrs. Darling stared blankly at the district congressman, unable to speak. All she could think about is whether she left the lights on or not.
She had not.
“Mr. Garza,” she stammered, “Congressman! Could you write that? On the napkin? Mr. Congressman?” There was no reply. Mrs. Darling squeezed the hand and wept. For the first time, she began to feel the pain of shattered glass sticking in her chest, and pushed her body against the man in the windshield, trying to remove him. She decided she’d write the note herself, forcing the pen deep into his hand, rubbing it hard against the napkin.
Mr. Darling opened the door leading down the the garage. Every step he took was one more step towards finding her secret. Mrs. Darling tried to remember whether she had kissed her son goodnight the previous evening.
She had not.
Written by Pancho Morris with artwork by Nicole Monk
Inspired by: http://www.wtsp.com/news/local/florida/troopers-former-florida-politician-dies-in-bike-crash/429563283