When the rearview mirror swallowed its final pinpoint light of Dade County, instinct took over. Shoving the cassette into the dash player, the right hand then abandoned its DJ duty to take over the wheel – just so the left could be free to roll up the window. When the window was down, the acrid smell of swamp, sawgrass, and Cypress slapped my hair at a rushing 55 miles per hour. It felt good. Same as the humid night that drenched every bit of space up to and including my Midwestern naïve skin. Amazed, perhaps a bit disoriented at how intensely dark it was, rolling up the window seemed for no other reason than to keep my dashboard lights from disappearing in the same manner as the Miami lights had.
The two lane ribbon of luminescent road waged its own resistance against the darkness. The line between night and asphalt pavement was invisible. In the very moment my tires made contact, I saw him; stretched across the road. Blue tank top. Wearing shorts. Did I just run over a man on the 18 mile stretch?
Darkness of this sort all but has to lead to a showdown. On this night, it was a South Florida standoff between a girl traveling alone and without a cell phone (because in those days only Miami Vice and drug dealers owned cellphones), an everglades road, a dead body, and a car on the side of the road with a guy inside….talking on his cellphone. I certainly was glad I didn’t have to pause and explain this all to my mother.
The feel and sound of driving over a body is distinct. Irrational thoughts and survival instincts competed for reality. First my knees and legs jerked up, instinctive of running over a large snake. Then remorse set in for running over a homeless person that took to a warm road and accidentally fell asleep. “No, no. That couldn’t be right,” cautioned my breathless voice. But finally it was raw and controlled fear that ultimately surrendered, as I pulled in behind a lonesome car with eerie beacon flashers. “Was that actually a person in the road or was it staged to get me to pull over?”
Alone, at night. On my way from Miami to Key Largo…on the 18 mile stretch. TO BE CONTINUED.
Spring 1992, Dade County Florida.
Seamore Nautical Spirits
While in between the sea and the road, Seamore Nautical Spirits has enrolled in two writing courses. It’s a work in progress, meant for remembering, reflecting and honoring the past.