In the Fast Lane of the Mass Pike
The silver guardrail speeds past my windshield
from right to left. The big truck’s driver-side in my
rearview mirror, the rig still going straight, sixty—
but we’re sideways on the black ice.
My wife, slumped in her seat, wakes up and
asks if everything’s all right. “Go back to sleep.”
I’m afraid she’ll panic and grab my arm.
Steady in the slide, I move the steering wheel
right and back, right and back, inch at a time,
inch at a time. till a front wheel catches in the
frosted snow along the guardrail bank, gains
purchase, we spin sideways right 90°, grab
dry pavement, spin stops, the truck again
on my right. I glance at the speed—still 60.
Need to stop now; pull over, lane by lane. Park, get
out. Sweating in January Berkshires highway wind with
a cigarette, shaking. Margaret asks if she should drive.
I say yes. Try to tell her what happened; hard to
picture if you weren’t really there. She takes the wheel.
Like she did forty years later when I hit a wall myself.
I always thought I could steer out of anything - never
hit the brakes. Inch out of a skid or power through,
Scylla on one side, Charybdis on the other, road ahead
unclear, just stay in the fast lane, don’t slow down.
But she couldn’t picture what she hadn’t seen,
that I needed a break and couldn’t steer out,
and she hit the brakes in the wreck of our lives.