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What I’m Thinking Now
Creative Nonfiction by Gail Louise Siegel

They replaced the medians on Lake Shore Drive since you left Chicago for Boston. Not just the metal bars along the stretch near Fullerton where that drunk jumped from the southbound lanes into the northbound lanes, slamming head-on into the car right behind you. I mean the entire median, from the north end at Hollywood and the Edgewater Beach Hotel, to the south end at 55th and Hyde Park.

The new medians aren’t steel. They’re concrete barriers rising a lofty eight or twelve inches higher than the squat metal fence that used to separate the two racing sides of highway.

“Concrete” can’t describe it. As an artist, you’d approve. It’s sandy-colored and engraved with a wavy line; the architects call it a prairie design. But it looks more like waves of water than grain, reminding me of a placid lake.

For long distances the median widens to concrete-walled planters. They are pink with salt rose, tall with thin locusts, lacy with shrubs.

I don’t think a car could leap the sandy prairie walls like a giant soused frog, crushing everything in its path, strewing the pavement with blood and bones. Not the kind of sedan that grazed your car’s roof.

I am still not clear what happened that day—five, eight, or ten years back. I remember you said it was a Saturday. You and Brian and the boys were driving home. The drunk sailed across the divider, a ship off course. It was morning; the papers wrote he was wasted at 8 A.M.

It was too fast for metaphors. He launched or he flew. He crossed or broke through or flattened the tin wall. He crashed behind you, sparing your car.

I picture him airborne, rocketing past. Screeching into the next car like a missile, annihilating another mother, other children. Exploding faster than imagery—Speeding bullet! Home run! Faster than thought.

You told me in whispers, awestruck at the close call.

I asked if you helped the mangled strangers, the family destroyed.

I asked in judgment, not gratitude that you all were safe. I was the brimstone minister, the suspicious schoolmarm, the scowling cop scolding you for leaving the scene.

I asked. As if there was somewhere to park in that traffic. As if stopping your car could stop pain or halt death. What more could you do than clutch at your boys, napping and blind to the gestures of fate.

Your sons, your sons, forever blond in my mind. It’s too many years; I’ve forgotten their names.

I asked as if I didn’t know what you were thinking.

What was I thinking?

I just want to say what I’m thinking of now. The medians are blooming. How’s it going in Boston? I’m so glad you’re alive.

§ § §

Gail Louise Siegel’s work has appeared or will soon appear in StoryQuarterly, Night Train, Salamander, Quick Fiction, FRiGG ,The North Dakota Quarterly, Zoetrope All-Story Extra , FictionFix, Brevity, Flashquake, Outsider Ink , 3am Magazine, The Salt River Review, Tattoo Highway, and elsewhere.

Reprinted from Ink Pot #5, available now

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