I was a talk radio programmer for Sirius, which took up about four days a month, and Billy worked from home with me on his own start-up business. Mitch Boone asked me to give them a ride. A tough two years before Brawlin’ Broads put some cash in their pockets, they were making rent in the party planning trade, setting up tables and chairs. I hadn’t seen them in a while, told him sure, couldn’t get Billy to go with me. “It’s too far,” he whined.
I said goodbye to the Boones, and thought I’d get home fast so that Billy and me could grab some lunch at the Firehouse.
No cars in front of me, I looked in the rear view and saw a sprinkling on my tail about a quarter mile back. Just as I went under an underpass, I glanced over to my right, to the entrance ramp, and noticed a late model sedan, maybe a Pontiac. Nothing special except his wheels turned, making a giant U-turn headed straight for my front bumper. That U-turn went slow motion but he was coming up fast.
Just before an inevitable head-on impact, I swung the steering wheel to the left, dove into the diamond lane, and he swept right by, bearing down on those cars behind me. I was close enough to the other driver that I saw his eyes, carefree and confused, in the second before veering away, before I died.
We missed each other by no more than a half a foot. I looked in my mirror; saw some swerving, waited to hear metal crunching, didn’t hear any. It was a long thirty seconds before I took another breath.
I was shaking, all right, and my heart went atomic on me. I started to breathe hard, panicking. I reached for my phone and called Billy. When he answered, hysteria had already taken hold. I screamed out I was almost killed, told him what happened in breathless bursts.
“Calm down. Pull over.”
“No. I just wanna get home.” I was crying. I think he started to believe how serious it could’ve been.
“You’re driving too fast! Slow down!”
“Okay.” My voice was small, my breathing returned.
The next day Billy and I were driving to the mall. That was the day I told him the song I wanted played at my funeral. That was the day that he told me about Rose Hills, the place he wanted to be buried.
That was the day of the first pushpin in the map toward something worse happening.
There were other signs in the next forty-one days along that road but that was the first one I remember.