About a week ago, I woke to discover that a friend had died overnight. She had been involved in a car accident. She was the driver. The accident occurred during the evening, on one of the most dangerous roads in my city, the very road I take to the more secluded beach, the one that is not the tourist area.
She and I weren't close, but when I was training for my black belt, she was also taking classes. Her daughter took class with mine, and her brother taught my kids jiu-jitsu. We kept in loose contact on Facebook, like so many of us nowadays. She was bright and lively and always the life of the party.
Today I really wanted to take my children to the beach, but I was almost afraid. Well, not ALL of my children, but I at least wanted to take my two shorties. (In fact, that was all I took with me, because no one else wanted to go.) I toyed back and forth with going to the public beach - and this was College Week, with the resultant cautions from the police department in the wake of unruly behavior in the past and the good possibility of the main arteries to the beach being closed mid afternoon - or going down the road on which she died.
This road is the only way in to this beach is a long and winding road, only two lanes with deep ditches on either side. At times, the road seems almost to curve backwards on itself. The speed limit is low, in order to keep people safe. It's always been a dangerous road.
When I told my husband I was planning to go to the beach, he reminded me to keep both hands on the wheel, and obey the speed limit. Remember your friend, he said. For once, I was not upset that he told me what to do.
As we drove my stomach grew tighter. I knew that soon, we'd be coming up on the memorial to my friend and the three children who'd died with her. I knew that seeing the four gaily decorated crosses on Facebook was one thing, but in real life - totally different.
My shorties were in the backseat completely oblivious to my angst - as is usual, typical and completely appropriate. A few days ago, they had started a new game, in which they put the truck windows down and waved at everyone as they passed. They were counting to see if they could get 100 people to wave back to them. Every time they did, it was as if they had struck gold, they were that delighted and SO giggly, rendered almost speechless by a mere wave. Again, again - Oh, I got that horseback rider to wave!
About two miles away, I thought I could smell the ocean, and I wondered if it was one of the last scents my friend had experienced. Before I had time to get sad, (again, still, ad nauseum, I think all I do is have ALL THE FEELS lately)
one of my shorties stuck her hand out the window and then brought it back in and licked her finger.
(All together now - Blergh!!)
"Salty!" she pronounced. "We must be really close to the beach."
And her sister retorted, "No, silly. You're eating wheat thins."
And thus I drove almost to the memorial laughing. And that's how my friend would've wanted it.