Divine intervention might have started long before the crash.
The explosion vaporizes the rain droplets on the front of the orange jumpsuit, forcing my lungs to collapse, momentarily singeing fourteen days of unshaven stubble. My incoherent mind is screaming, confused by the pain, the watery blackness… a synaptic firestorm. Run! Goddammit, run!... No identifiable body parts, no witnesses, no more van, no more jail — gone in a single flash of white light.
The slightly borrowed ‘69 Barracuda eagerly consumes the dash-lined miles, in cadence with the distant sound of wipers… Dumb guy, dumb guy, dumb guy. Warm welcome heat begins to thaw frigid legs. A gift, conjured up by the big rumbling Hemi engine, delivered without permission from an untouched heater switch.
Pain, grating raw nerves is receding, chased by aspirin snatched from my now abandoned and cold apartment. Cutting a path through the black, troubled night, fending off countless torrents of rain, the Barracuda reluctantly slows, nervously approaching the imposing Canadian border complex.
Slowly… slowly advancing until the customs agent puts down a paperback, leaning toward the recently opened glass window.
“Driver’s license, please.” The night I went to the bar for a beer, I left my driver’s license on the kitchen table… two weeks ago. Pulling out my wallet, I fish out the recovered license, handing it to him with authority.
“What is your purpose for entering the United States?”
“Going to Seattle to play a hockey game tomorrow night.” Plausible deniability. He hasn’t attempted to write anything down, like my license number or ID number.
“Who’s your team?”
“The Surrey Bandits. It’s an old guy’s league. We’re gonna play the Seattle Sounders.”
“I played for a while until I broke a leg.”
“Sorry to hear that. Who was your team?”
“Vancouver Canucks. Western Hockey League.”
“No shit? They’re a hell of a team!”
“Yeah, it was fun while it lasted, but those days are long gone, eh?”
“At least you still have your teeth!”
Reaching into his mouth, he pries loose the retainer, holding two front teeth, sporting a big toothless smile.
“Fistfight, or stick?”
“Jesus, that must have hurt!”
“Don’t know. The last thing I remember is waking up in the hospital drugged up with a bunch of wires in my mouth.”
“You must be one tough son of a bitch! What happened with your leg?”
“Skate got tangled up with another guy along the boards. Then, someone else took a cheap shot after the whistle blew and slammed me into the boards. I couldn’t stand.”
“Shit, man, you aren’t going to show me your fake leg, are you?” Still not writing.
“Nah. The docs saved it, but it was no good for skating anymore, so I retired.”
“Well, I’m glad you’re still alive, man!”
Handing my license back, he says, “Keep your head up, and beat the shit out of those Seattle bums for me, eh? Be on your way. Don’t want to be late, eh!”
“Thanks. Enjoy the rest of your book. What’s the name of it?”
“Body Language. Talks about how the body speaks the truth unconsciously without our consent.”
“Speaks the truth, eh? Think it works if you know the signs?”
“Dunno yet. I’m only half-way through it.”
“Well, enjoy it, eh?”
Misdirection… works every time.
I watch carefully in the car mirror as I’m pulling away to see if he writes anything. Instead, as I hoped, he picks up his book and continues reading. I find it sad that a talented hockey player ends up in a dead-end job as a border agent.
It’s then I fully realize how lucky I am.
In the rainy night, I pass through Bellingham, Mount Vernon, Marysville, and Everett, almost without noticing.
The “borrowed” Plymouth runs like a precision clock, laying down the miles to the rhythm of the wipers. I’m focused on my next step toward becoming invisible.