The phosphorescent glow of the bridge in my headlights appeared simultaneously with the first fat rain drops on the windshield. No moonlight shone on the river far below. No other cars traveled Highway 221 that Friday night, not in my line of vision anyway. No companion sat in the passenger seat of my ’61 Valiant, unless you want to count Fear. No roommate was coming to Hazlehurst to spend the weekend with me. Stifling and still, only solitude surrounded me out there in the backside of nowhere.
The noise woke me from my reverie, and I plummeted from anxiety to abject terror. The car shifted to the right, sliding toward the narrow shoulder-a foot, now another, sliding toward my demise. I imagined my broken body inside the crushed green coffin that had once been my car.
“Flat tire,” I thought, as the rain fell faster and faster.
Easing the car toward the wet clay shoulder, I prayed, “God help me. I’m too young to die.”
The shoulder changed all too quickly to a deep chasm. I gripped the steering wheel with all my strength, but the car continued to slide toward the abyss waiting to my right, yawning like the jaws of a gargantuan crocodile. The car seemed to slide for hours in the wet red clay. I felt my life slipping, slipping away.
Finally the car stopped, resting on the edge of the precipice that dropped down to the deep channel filled with the overflow of the angry river. Rain had fallen for days, but I didn’t know it. I’d been safe in Athens at the university. As I opened the door, the car shifted, but I managed to step onto the highway. The cold rain on my skin assured me that I still lived, and discomfort never felt so good. However, my car sat on the brink of disaster. I stood on the shoulder and cried, helpless in the storm. Rain ran down my collar and my long hair plastered itself to my head.
Cell phones didn’t exist at that time. I could only cry, pray and wait. Climbing back into my precariously perched car was not an option, even if I had to walk the twelve miles home. When three men stopped to help me, I was so glad to see them that it never occurred to me that I might be in danger. Fortunately, they were not murderers or rapists; actually, they were godsends. Very efficiently they tied a rope to my car so it couldn’t slide over the embankment and then proceeded to pull it back onto the highway. To my surprise, there was no flat tire. I never learned what I heard that night to make me pull off the road and into danger.
I was a college sophomore when that very real nightmare happened, but the times I’ve faced danger since then I couldn’t even begin to count. There was the night the car jumped the median on I-20 West in Augusta and hit the car behind me, killing everyone in both vehicles. I, along with my month old child, was saved for some reason. I think of all the times I drove in terrible storms when I could barely see the road. And then there was the day the bulldog nearly got me. He was so close that I felt his hot breath on my bare leg. And from all these situations I was saved. By Fate? By God? Why?
I don’t know why, but I guess God wasn’t through with me yet. I cannot fathom living and not believing in God. How can anyone consider the rose on the vine and doubt God? How can we accept the seasons and not see God in them? I know for a fact that God doesn’t bother to answer my every whispered prayer, but I know he’s out there. For the present, that’s good enough for me.