Our son is late. Waaaaay late.
He always wakes us when he gets in, just so we know. But now it's the middle of the night, the lights are on and his bedroom empty. Dial his phone, straight to voice. Text and nothing in return. It's not time to panic, but it's damn close.
The problem is this: he's nothing like I was at 18. This nut fell far from the tree. If I was late, I was up to shenanigans, I was thinking up a 100 lies to cover tracks. I squeezing in a few more hours of fun into the night at the expense of my parents' sanity. I was just late.
My son, he's honest Abe. Something's wrong.
It's 2:50 AM and my wife and I are staring out the window. Our stomachs twisted, throats tight. Fear sits like a chunk of black ice. This is the one, I think. I don't dare say it out loud. This is the night everything changes. I've had a good life -- a great one -- but the legs are getting kicked out tonight. Thoughts about hospitals and twisted metal. Thoughts about getting jumped at the fairgrounds, thoughts about getting caught on the wrong side of town. Thoughts, thoughts, thoughts...
This is the one.
At 2:55 AM, we find his license plate number and get ready to call the police, see if there's been an accident. I look up the phone number, scan the Internet for news. I would've consulted a psychic. Just before 3:00 AM, the phone rings. I watch my wife answer it. This moment stretches out, a moment that meets a fork in the road. Her expression will tell me which path we're going down. Maybe for the rest of our lives.
It's him. He's calling from a friend's house. He fell asleep and just woke up.
The tension falls off us like dead skin. We can breathe again. We can breathe again.
But I think about all the people that were taken down the other path. And my heart breaks for them.