There are three of us, barreling toward the shore in a turquoise sedan. I am almost four, babbling, squirming in and out of my scrawny fifteen-year-old brother’s grip in the passenger seat. Cigarette perched, my father mans the wheel; he hums as his eyes survey the two-lane highway, an unremarkable stretch that promises the ocean.
I don’t see the truck. I don’t see its front driver’s side wheel explode. I don’t see the vehicle veer onto our lane.
My father slams the brakes. The cigarette drops to his lap. Yanked by my brother tight to his chest, he positions his hands over my face.
We collide. The windshield explodes. There is screaming, a burning smell, until, finally, we stop moving.
I am shaken, confused, and covered with blood; my brother’s lacerated forehead, cheeks, and fingers weep upon my blonde hair and striped top.
Fast forward to the hospital: I watch my father gather himself beside the snack machine. When a nurse arrives with an update on my brother, I sneak away and wander up an empty corridor. I pass a corner and keep exploring, peeking into rooms, touching the gurneys and wheelchairs.
I feel a hand on my shoulder. I turn to face a fresh-faced nurse, kneeling with a smile. For the first time that day, I cry.
"You are lost and need to go back," she says, gently taking me by the hand.