It was six o’clock on a Wednesday morning. The sun was just beginning to turn the sky pink behind us. I sat in the middle row of our nine passenger van looking out the right side window but not really seeing the other cars on Interstate 59.
I stretched my feet out in front of me, and leaned back in the seat while I sipped my coffee. One ear bud dangled from my right ear while I listened to David Sedaris read essays from his book Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls. (I know the title is goofy, but believe me when I say this book is all kinds of awesome.)
We rumbled along in the far left lane of the five lane highway. Brian, today’s driver, continued a quiet conversation with his co-pilot, Mitch. Brian flipped on his right blinker and glanced at his side mirror. He inched the van into the next lane when, from the corner of my eye, I saw the giant, red Ozarka truck.
Mary, one of the other passengers, reacted faster than I did. She made a half scream, half gurgling noise when the truck’s driver moved in from his left to occupy the same spot we were going for.
Book forgotten, I found that I couldn’t scream—only suck in a gasp and throw my hand against the window Jack-and-Rose-Titanic-style as though the piddling strength of my palm could stop what would surely be, at seventy miles an hour, a very nasty collision.
I heard Brian’s yelp of surprise as he jerked the van back into our lane. The truck sped past us. We all watched in silence as it crested a small hill and disappeared into the spaghetti bowl of Houston highways.
Then reaction set in.
Holy shit, I thought, yanking out my ear bud. Holy shit. Holy shit. Holy shit.
I could feel my face turn red. Beads of sweat popped out along my hairline. I took a shaky breath and, as calmly as possible, said, “Wow. It’s kinda warm. Could use a little air back here.”
Brian laughed, fingers gripping the steering wheel. His knuckles were white.
“Actually… not kidding. Turn the air on.” It was no longer a request.
Brian stopped laughing. “Oh. Sorry.” He snapped on the air conditioning. Cold air blasted from an overhead vent.
I practiced deep calming breaths.
“We started changing lanes before he even put on his blinker!” Brian said indignantly. “We had the right of way. He should have let us over!”
Mitch listened and nodded. Then said in his quiet Southern Louisiana accent, “Yeah, we moved first. But he was bigger.”