The glass cracks the second time he punches it, shatters the third time, and even though he feels the small bones in his hand breaking and the glass slicing his knuckles, he keeps punching until the driver’s side of the windshield is a gaping, red-edged hole. Rain pours in through that hole, streaming down the dash, and he screams, loud and angry, until he feels empty. His jeans are wet. Water collects in the floorboard, soaking into his shoes.
He picks up his phone. The screen is cracked, too, a fine spiderweb of space in the thin glass. With his left hand, the one that isn't bleeding, throbbing, swelling, he types out I need to get away i just need to get away. Tell mom don't worry & i'm sorry & i love her & i love u too ok? Don't forget me while i'm gone. He drops the phone. It clatters against the console and falls into the watery depths of the floorboard with a ploop.
He gets out of the Jeep, standing on the gravel beside the train tracks and watching the Ohio rising, its churning, dark waters lapping closer and closer. It would be so easy, to sit back down and gun the Jeep into that dark water. He's said his goodbyes, in a way. He shakes his head. No. Whatever else he's failed at, he won't give up on life yet. That's not what he needs. He just needs to get away, to get out. Puck will understand when he gets the text. Puck always understands.
He leans through the open door, grabbing the gear shift awkwardly with his mangled right hand. Somehow, he manages enough force to depress the button and push the stick forward to "D". He steps back, steps back again, and with another scream tearing its way out of him, he throws all his weight into his shoulder, and his shoulder into the back of Jeep. It rolls forward like he's gunned the damn thing, rolling into the Ohio, where it slowly fills and sinks.
Wash away, he thinks. Just wash away.
The Jeep is almost completely beneath the water when he realizes he's no longer sure if he ever hit send.
He must have, though. He must have. The rain washes the blood from his shattered hand as he walks away along the tracks, walking west until the tracks veer too far from the road. He moves closer to the road then. The rain tapers off, but his clothes are already soaked through, and the temperature has continued to drop. He’s wet and cold and tired, so he stops walking and stands in one spot, leaning against a signpost, not really thinking about what to do next or where to go.
After he’s stood there for several minutes, maybe more, a well-lit city bus pulls to a stop in front of him. He glances up at the sign he’s been leaning against; it’s a bus stop sign, indicating the route. He gets onto the bus, handing the driver two damp, crumpled ones from his left pocket. The bus driver frowns as she takes the money, her eyes darting to his right hand.
“This route don’t go by the hospital,” she says.
“Don’t need the hospital,” he says.
The bus driver looks at him dubiously, but doesn’t say anything else, so he moves towards the back half of the bus, taking a seat and slumping against the window. He looks down at his hand. It’s swollen even more, though all but the deepest of the lacerations have stopped bleeding. Several pieces of glass are still embedded between his knuckles. He considers pulling them out, but he doesn’t have anywhere to put them, and it’s not safe or sanitary to leave pieces of bloody glass on the bus. Instead, he carefully rests his right hand on his lap, putting his left hand around it like a shield, not touching.
The bus makes another stop. No one gets on. No one gets on at the next stop either. He closes his eyes, feeling the bus sway and bounce. His neck is sore, either from going through the guardrail or from shoving the Jeep or both. Resting his head against the window feels good. Closing his eyes feels good. When he opens his eyes again at the sound of a loud voice, he can tell that some time as passed.
“You can’t sleep on the bus,” the bus driver says. The bus is stopped, and she’s standing next to his seat.
“You can’t just keep riding. We’ve made the route twice. You gotta pick a stop.”
“Oh,” he says. “Where are we?”
“You’re downtown,” the bus driver says. “Where do you stay? You might need to change buses.”
He shakes his head. “I must’ve missed my stop. Sorry. I’ll get it this next time.”
The bus driver looks at him dubiously again, but she goes back to the front of the bus and starts driving again. Two stops later, he see a Walgreens with the lights still on, so he thanks the bus driver and gets off the bus. In the Walgreens, he buys a bottle of rubbing alcohol, a pack of gauze squares, a roll of gauze, a roll of tape, a tube of pain-relief Neosporin, and—after thinking about it and looking down at all the glass—some tweezers. He gets a bottle of ibuprofen, too, and when he passes a rack of plain, cheap sweatshirts on the way up to the register, he grabs one of those, too, paying for all of it with the wet bills in his pocket.
Once everything is paid for, he takes the bag back to the bathroom, where he swallows four ibuprofen before locking himself into the toilet stall and awkwardly opening all the packages with his left hand and his teeth. He douses his right hand with rubbing alcohol, gritting his teeth to keep from screaming. He pulls the larger pieces of glass out with his fingers, dropping them into the Walgreens bag, then uses the tweezers to get the smaller pieces, sometimes having to dig around in the gashes on and around his knuckles. Halfway through, he has to stop to puke into the Walgreens bag.
When all the glass is out, at least all that he can find, and his hands and shirt are bloody, he pours more alcohol over his hand. He squeezes most of the tube of Neosporin onto his split skin, stacks gauze squares on the worst of the lacerations. He tapes his middle, ring, and pinky fingers together, then wraps his entire hand in the roll of gauze, taping it on the outside to stabilize any part that might be broken.
His hand hurts. The ibuprofen isn’t even putting a dent in how much it hurts. His head feels clear, though, maybe the clearest it’s been in a long time. He unlocks the stall, throws the Walgreens bag into the trash, tugs off his wet and bloody shirt, pulling the new sweatshirt on it its place. On his way out of the store, he buys a Pepsi and a pack of gum.
“Where’s the bus station?” he asks the girl at the check-out. “Like Greyhound buses.”
“It’s on Gilbert. It’s only about two miles. You can catch a city bus. The sign out front’s got the schedule,” the Walgreens check-out girl says.
“Thanks,” he says. He sticks the gum into the back pocket of his still-damp jeans and walks out to the bus stop. At the Greyhound station, he pulls out the wad of cash from his financial aid disbursement and buys a ticket to Chicago. He’ll figure the rest out once he gets there.