I was in a twister.
That’s not intended to be a metaphor, or something cute like that. There was literally a violently spinning column of air rampaging my neighborhood and I was actually inside of it.
It’s funny how it happened.
I saw the news reports, heard all the obnoxious sirens. That wasn’t the problem. The problem was that my brand new Kawasaki was parked out front. And I paid damn good money for that thing.
I had a storm cellar, naturally. Out here in the plains, having a storm cellar was like having a bathroom. An assumption. If I could just get to that bike in time, it could ride out the storm with me down in the cellar.
I ran outside, tie trailing in the wind like it wanted to strangle me. The sky was this noxious brown, pulsating like it was a living thing. Rain shot past in little knifelets, cutting against the skin. Abrasive.
I could see the neighbor’s above ground pool from across the way. Ugly thing. How the weeds just sprouted around it, like they were claiming it as one of their own. Always an eyesore when I’d pull the Kawasaki up after a long day at the office. It’s funny the things that cross your head in situations like this.
I reached into my now-soaked business slacks, fumbled for the key. As I pulled it from my pocket and went to jam it in the ignition, I watched as it was ripped from my hands. It was all so slow, how it seemed to hover there, just like that. I considered how strange it was that gravity seemed to be turned off for that little key.
And then I noticed I was flying.
The key was feet from me, turning and twisting with the same relentless speed that I was. My Kawasaki glinted in the brown sky as it hurtled up above me. The windscreen went first. I saw my face reflected in it for the briefest of moments as it shot free of the bike and flew away. Half of a door frame collided with the front wheel, tearing it to shreds.
The key came back, smacked me right in the head. Blinding pain, to the point that I couldn’t feel it. Like when something’s so hot it feels cold.
My Armani loafers went next. They pulled my socks halfway off with them, which socks fluttered more like windsocks than human ones. The Kawasaki’s windscreen sliced one of the loafers clean in half. The other one simply frayed apart at the seams from the force of the wind. It whipped apart, in tatters. Four hundred dollars torn up at once.
My tie really was strangling me now, pulled centrifugally outward. Like an invisible man was tugging with all his might. I tried to reach for my neck, but my jacket was wrapped around me like a scarf. The sleeves were tearing, threading from them coming apart and into my open mouth, how it gaped as I fought for breath.
I cursed God for doing this to me. I cursed myself for not acting quicker, for failing to get the Kawasaki down into the cellar in time. Everything was fading to black.
It all flitted back in an instant.
I was tiny and muddy and just inconceivably small. I was down there in the mud with that frog that I caught down by the river with my dad that one time we went fishing. He was hopping around my mother’s garden, looking for some sort of escape.
But every time he got close to the little wire fence, I picked him back up and plopped him in the center. Little flecks of mud on my face, in my hands. My hair was caked. It was raining. I was a tiny five-year-old and I was playing with my frog.
The feeling came back to my extremities. I could breathe again. My tie had ripped away, half of it ineffectually rippling against one of my outstretched arms. I didn’t know why, but I’d been freed.
Fuck the Armani loafers. I never wanted them. As a matter of fact, they crowded my toes. Johnson in Advertising had a pair so I had to get my own. The Kawasaki was bullshit. I hated bikes, come to think of it. It was nothing more than a fifteen thousand dollar ego boost.
As the wreckage of my life came hurtling past, I made peace with it. I wasted away my life working a job that made me cynical. Buying things I didn’t want. Always hungry for more. Never satisfied. Maybe I couldn’t set things right, but at least I knew in the end. At least I admitted it.
If I could do it all over again, I’d get it right. It was easy to say that, spinning around toward my certain death, but I just knew it. Life was more than a pair of loafers and a motorcycle. There was more to it than having my own office, owning a McMansion in the suburbs.
I was plummeting.
I closed my eyes, braced for the impact. I wasn’t terrified anymore. Not even angry. I just accepted that the next event in the sequence would be my death.
And then I hit hard, like concrete on the surface. Water flooded my ears until they were useless flaps on the side of my head. My nostrils burned as the water rushed in, hitting the back of my throat.
I thrashed instinctively, fighting my way to the surface. I caught my breath, opened my eyes. There I was, in the tatters of my business attire, floating in my neighbor’s above ground pool. And you know what? It was wonderful.