The Viaducts of Your Dreams
I can still remember the moment before my life changed forever. That part of my memory is crystal clear. A storm passed over the local highway and deposited bolts of fresh yellow lightning over the distant hills. Thunder rumbled so seriously it seemed to shake our shitty little compact car. My nine year old daughter, Madi, read a book in the back seat; and she prattled on to me about music and culture and school. It was a normal night. Normal as any other.
I don’t remember the drunk driver slipping into oncoming traffic.
I don’t remember the collision.
I just remember my daughter’s scream. She landed somewhere outside the car. I didn’t know how. I didn’t know why. But I rushed out to see her, with shocked tears already filling my eyes.
The blood on Madeline’s skirt told me that it already had to be too late. The screaming of the passenger from the other car and the police sirens sliding their way down the highway told me the same thing. They all knew, or at least figured, it had to be too late. All of the blurry people wouldn’t carry on like that if it wasn’t. Madeline looked up at me from the pavement with eyes that faded with every painful sigh. She looked at me like she didn’t know why. Thankfully, her beautiful voice still worked just fine.
“Daddy, I don’t want to go anywhere,” whispered my little angel. “Don’t let them take me anywhere.”
A man who claimed to be a doctor asked to approach. I nodded.
I coughed. Easier to cough than cry. I couldn’t look at her legs. God, help me, I couldn’t look at my own daughter’s mangled body. I caught one look of it getting out of the car. That one look was enough for a lifetime.
“It’s okay sweetheart,” I whispered back. “You’re staying with me. Pops isn’t going anywhere. This nice man is just going to take a look at you.”
The man kneeled beside us to take a look. He started to breath faster once he grasped her injuries. It couldn’t be good if he breathed faster, right? I knew that, somewhere, in the back of my shocked mind. I couldn’t take my eyes off Madeline’s. I couldn’t and I wouldn’t. They looked like two perfect little blue crystals in a sea of red and discolored backdrops. She blinked a couple times when the man’s cold hands touched her. She always did that at the doctor’s office. It wasn’t because she was scared, she used to say, it was because they’re hands always felt so cold.
“Okay, Daddy,” said Madi. “Can we get ice cream?”
The doctor calmly rested his hand on my shoulder as he continued to work.
“Of course, sweetheart.”
The rain started to pick up. She was getting wet, now, and cold on the side of the road. Why wouldn’t anybody get my daughter in a Goddamn ambulance? Why wouldn’t they help us? The blood on Madi’s shirt started to crust and her eyes started to shut just a little more with each passing second. I screamed for somebody, anybody, to get a Goddamn ambulance. I knew full well that those pretty white lights down the highway wouldn’t make it in time.
“Daddy, do you think we’ll dream together, tonight?”
She caught me completely off guard with that one. My mind was working a mile a minute.
“What, sweetheart, what do you mean?”
She smiled and took a deep breath.
“Like the song. Your favorite song.”
My mind shifted back to our conversation before the crash. My daughter loved Van Morrison. She loved to hear me sing my absolutely horrible impression of him in the car, one that I shared with absolutely nobody else beside her. Madi liked to listen and ask questions about the words in songs, even if she often did not understand them. This was one of those times.
“If I enter into the slipslide…” she asked. “Is that what he’s saying?”
I laughed at that.
“If I ventured into the slipstream, between the viaducts of your dreams, where immobile steel rims crack, and the ditch in the back roads stop, could you find me?”
Madi turned her nose up.
“What the heck does that mean?”
That kid had a lot of sass.
“The slipstream is like what happens when you go to sleep. And a viaduct is kinda like a bridge. Immobile steel rims don’t really crack, right, because steel is so strong? And immobile means it can’t be moved. So Van’s asking; if I traveled into your dreams, when we go to sleep, into the place of imagination, into the place of amazing stuff beyond belief… could you find me?”
Madi smiled. She liked that line. She liked it a lot.
“Would you kiss-a my eyes?”
My daughter never said another word. She passed away on September 21st, 2018, about ten minutes before we made it to the hospital. I dreamed with her for the first time that night. Now I dream with her every night I go to sleep.
Madi lives in a different world now. She seems happy there, with her mother, my mother, my father, and my brother all there to guide her way. She looks beautiful. But a girl needs her dad.
She’s getting angrier, now, and more insistent. Sometimes she makes me sleep when I don’t want to sleep. Sometimes she holds me down in my dreams for hours and days at a time. Last night she scratched my arm so hard I saw the mark in the morning. Madi doesn’t understand why anyone would wake from the wonderful world of make believe. Madi says it’s my turn to stay in the slipstream.
But I don’t know how to tell my daughter the truth. The truth is I’m not ready.
The truth is I don’t want to leave.