Oh and I can see Daniel waving goodbye
God it looks like Daniel, must be the clouds in my eyes – Elton John
Coming back from Magione, the lake, Trasimeno, is always a distraction. Especially now. Its waters in wide warm swaths of turquoise, its islands trying to decide whether to stay anchored in the lake or magnetically attach themselves to the sky of the same color gray carGRAY CAR! RED LIGHTS. BRAKES! STOPSTOP. The gray car turning against the tide of heavy traffic in both lanes – into a busy restaurant. No turn signals. Just brakes. The rest of us, in cars going both directions are scrambling to digest these sudden changes. And slam, one car, two car, three car, four, slam to a stop – inches from each other. Is that how it happened Danielle? Hand’s still gripping my steering wheel I can see out of the corner of my eye, he’s waving at me. Just outside my open passenger window. Right arm raised. Against a blue sky or a blue lake behind him. Can’t quite make it out.
At first I just saw the white cross beside me. Behind the new guard rail separating the traffic from the drop off down to the lake below us. At road speed I might not have noticed the cross, let alone the photo in the midst of its crown of flowers. And it would have been hard to have seen the name “Danielle” written in script above the photo. Easy to take it in here, from the seat of my suddenly lurched-to-a-stop Fiat. From the look of the photo it was taken on a day just like this. A day like any other to a twenty year old with the sun at his back and friends to wave to ahead of him. For the rest f his life. Danielle did you know how short it was going to be? Were you happy in the moment? Are you waving goodbye when the picture was taken? Or waving to get us to slow down today?
Heart beating a bit from our near miss, I’m trying not to, but I keep hearing the crash. Ours that wasn’t and his that was. The sound travels in shock waves, rattling sticks and leaves as it crosses the street, bounces off the parking lot and roughly whips its way through the windows, jostling glasses and silverware on the wooden tables. Heads snap up and freeze, diners digesting, processing, the quick in the crowd scrape their benches back on the concrete floors, and run towards the source of the sound. I see the would-be rescuers, wrinkled cellophane cut outs in a video loop, jumping up running for the crash, jumping up running toward the crash, jumping up, running, jumping. Glassy ghosts of survivors, are still here, still running, still hoping for a different ending the next time the video plays. The survivors themselves probably aren’t here right now. But Danielle is. Still waving as I drive off.