Chapter 1: The Collision
Eshe Johnson, 2nd grade special education teacher, glances to the round clock in her Resource Room, relieved the day is almost over. The twenty-four-year-old hears a frustrated groan at the arts & crafts table a few feet away. She gets up from the reading circle nestled beside the only windows in the room to investigate a team project between two students.
Thinking to herself, "please don't have crayons in any orifices. I officially hate Wednesdays. And spaghetti," she takes a calming breath.
“Hey! How is your coloring project coming along? Is everything O.K.?" She asks sweetly while kneeling closer to the boy and girl sitting with a color-coded U.S. map that separates the regions.
“I went to New York before, but it wasn't purple. And we're in Chicago and it's not orange outside. I think you gave us the wrong color chart, Ms. Johnson.“ The boy speaks quietly, avoiding eye contact while pointing from the crayons to the color-coded chart.
“Ohhh, I know how confusing that can be!" Her supportive tone of voice comforts the children as she is reminded how precious her students are to her.
"The purple is for the Northeast states. And here in Chicago, Illinois, we're part of the Central states that are grouped together using orange. You did a fantastic job on the Southern states being red." Eshe explains and reassures, pointing from the color chart to the map.
“Well, I've been to Texas, and it is red there. So, we got confused on the purple ones." The girl looks up at Eshe while pointing to the red states.
“I see. That may be why they chose red for those states, they get very hot in the summer. You both are doing great! Believe in yourself, follow the chart, and you will be done before the bell rings. I'm so proud of you for getting so much done this period!" She pats their map with a smile before moving to observe the other children scattered around the room in her small class until the bell rings.
After escorting the students outside to their bus, she rushes back inside for a hefty sip of water and a bathroom break. Walking casually down the hall to her classroom, greeting exiting students and colleagues, she gets lost in thought.
~I can't believe I'm still mad about that date. Why is it that every time I meet a cute guy, he turns out to be a lying bum? Ugh, these men make it so easy to want to be a lesbian, but I'm just not attracted to women in that way. I'm so close to giving up and just focusing all my attention on work and heading fundraisers in my free time. It's not like I'm ugly, damn it. I'm sexy and fit. And young. And I have my s**t together. ~
As she gathers her things from inside her desk, preparing to go home, she sees the notification light on her phone blinking. When she picks it up, she sees she missed a call from a medical facility. She plays the voicemail on speaker while tucking folders into her black, crossbody satchel.
“This is LPN Knox at Michael Reese. Your sister, Nia, had an incident and you're documented as the primary emergency contact. Her condition is stable, but we need you to come sign some paperwork to release details. Please call back at 773-555-5555 if you have any questions."
“Oh no, that's not good. I wish they would be more descriptive!" Eshe thinks aloud while throwing her satchel over her shoulder and tucking her gray blazer over the bag against her body.
"Phew, they just called an hour ago. Please be alright, baby sis. I'll be there as soon as I can." Eshe dons her brown sunshades then goes through push tone prompts on her cell phone to call the LPN back while exiting the inner-city school. Her body language and speed reflect that she is on a mission to get to the facility a half mile away by foot.
~I'm so glad this school had an opening after I got certified. I couldn't imagine taking the train to get to her when she has bad days. ~ The spring breeze ruffles her white, sleeveless shirt against her back as the warm sunrays keep her arms comfortable.
“Oh Gloria, you're calling at the worst time!" As her phone vibrates with an incoming call, she switches to accept it and merges the two lines while she's on hold.
“Hey, I'm on my way to visit Nia so I'm sorry if I have to suddenly get off the phone. What's up?" Eshe says breathily, hustling down the sidewalk between adults and kids while reflexively glancing at her watch periodically. She jumps over a rain puddle rippling against the curb to keep her gray slacks and black, low-rise slip-on shoes dry.
“Oh! I was just calling to see how your date went last night. Is your sister alright? Are you okay?" Gloria inquiries from the other end, the instrumental, hold music from the hospital line playing in the background.
“Yeah, I'm fine. They didn't really make it sound like an emergency, but I can't not freak out when I get a call about her. Girl, that boy was ridiculous! He completely wasted my time by showing up late to a fancy place he picked out wearing a t-shirt and basketball shorts. Then, had the audacity to ask me to pay since he allegedly got mugged on the way there. Utter garbage." Eshe sees the hospital in view and checks her watch again, irritated that no one has picked up at the facility after nearly jogging for 5 minutes between stop lights.
“Dang, that's wild. I don't think you should use that dating app anymore. That's the third weirdo you met on there. Or maybe you should just avoid the hot guys on dating apps. They all seem to be on BS. You should use a paid one if you're serious about meeting someone." Gloria laughs, making Eshe roll her eyes as she comes up to a crosswalk with the light turning green.
“Girl, bye. You always say that, and you didn't even meet your man on a paid website!" Eshe rolls her eyes before rushing to cross the street ahead of everyone else as soon as the 'walk signal' lights up.
The sound of screeching tires penetrates her eardrums. She feels her body smack warm metal and roll upwards on the hood of a car before her mind catches up to what is happening. At the end of a heavy thud, the unforgiving stability of pavement captures her as she realizes she can't move.
She blinks harder as her vision starts to blur, wind from the cars rushing by in opposite lanes caressing her face and tousling her hair.
Her senses begin to dull as the outline of a well-dressed, seemingly handsome man rushes toward her with a cellphone to his ear. He kneels beside her and brushes the strands of curly hair from her face, his voice muffled beyond the ringing in her ears joining the ghost of his touch. She glances at her empty hand near her head then searches with her eyes until she catches a glimpse of her cell phone laying a few feet away.
Her world goes dark and silent.