Friday, December 17, 2004


Yesterday was the first day in over a week that I went straight home. That is, I had no plans to stop at any shopping establishment, bar, restaurant, or anyone else's house. I was about 2 miles from my house when everything went horribly awry. I was driving behind this big, white delivery-type truck. I was in "the zone" -- you know, when you're almost home, you're picturing yourself on your couch, in your sweats, watching Law & Order... Anyway, I was rudely snapped out of "the zone" when this truck just drifted over to the right and HIT this parked car -- so hard that the parked car bounced up in the air and came down partways on the curb. While I was recovering/processing that, becuase this all happened very fast you see, the truck then itself bounced up over the curb and ran through one front yard, over a bush, and into this giant tree. The tree was large and the truck sort of crumpled around it; the whole cab was split in half and smooshed.

I pulled over, and by now I was in going into shock-mode. I called 911 and they were like "where EXACTLY are you on Slaughter" and I was like "I don't know because i've been in "the zone" for the last few minutes." Anyway, it was a mess. The guy seemed to be alright -- by the time I moved my car out of the way and walked over to the scene (the police said I should stay around since I witnessed it) he was out of the truck and wandering around the front yard of this old lady standing in her doorway staring at the tree with a truck through it. He looked very out-of-it to me. He was grinning, almost sheepish -- and I'm thinking, sheepish is inappropriate for the amount of damage and stress he just caused. There were pieces parts of car/truck all over the sidewalk, street, front yard; there was broken glass; and there was that smell. That acrid car wreck smell, of burning plastic/rubber/who knows. And that is the smell that took me back to my own car wreck last year. I must have been completely in automatic mode because it's all kind of blurry here. I'm not sure long i was there, but when I finallly talked to the police and got in my car to leave, I couldn't believe how bad I was shaking. And then the sobbing started. It was SO WEIRD. But I was freaking out, and it wasn't because of some stupid truck driver who dozed off or whatever, it was because I was totally, in that moment, back at my own crash site. Only at my crash site, there were GIANT pieces of car and truck. A bumper here. The engine over there. Oh yeah, that's the hood bent back over the roof of the car. Would that be a tire over there? And mostly, the awful smell. And the dead feeling, the feeling of being in shock. Of watching it all from outside my body. Of watching myself become hysterical, crying, walking around in piles of fire ants, unable to calm down; watching and thinking "damn, i must be in shock, this is totally irrational". Of not feeling any pain yet because of the incredible adrenaline charge. I flashed back to that place, and it wasn't pretty.

I made a quick grounding phone call to my friend Hope before I drove myself home, verrrrry slowly. She was wonderful and kind, said the right things to calm me. When I got home I felt, physically, like I'd been through the wringer, my body was totally exhausted and I was still shaking. I went to bed early and of course feel much better today.

But I remain amazed at the power of our minds, our memories, what we store. How a smell can trigger such a violent response. How I will never forget that moment when I opened my eyes after being knocked out in my collision; I felt like you feel after anesthesia; not sleepy, just awake, and totally clueless as to day, time, place. And in this case, the smell brought me to reality first. The smoke wafting up out of my deployed airbag. My arms were pinned to my sides and my chin was resting on top of the airbag, in fact. And everything was dark, because my black hood was curled up over the windshield. I remember being achy and feeling/hearing a loud buzzing in my head. This whole realization part probably lasted one second, and the next thing I remember is looking curiously out of the passenger window where there was a man (the other driver) standing there calling to me, asking if i was alright, me trying to respond but only being able to croak "I don't know" and then realizing there was no glass in the window. How odd. But I think the shock really set in when I climbed out of the car, barefoot because the impact had literally knocked my socks off, unable to see because my glasses were somewhere in the backseat amongst the glass, when I stepped away from the car and really SAW it and realized how lucky I was to be alive.

I hope the man in the truck accident last night has that same realization and that he gains the same insight, peace, and sense of curious calm I had when I realized I was left alive for a PURPOSE. I don't know what it is yet, as I haven't done anything particularly remarkable since my wreck, but I know there's a reason and it must be pretty darn important. I hope he remembers the concerned lady in the jeans and black sweater asking if he was alright, as I remember the first responders to my accident -- a couple who was just leaving their driveway in time to see/hear the whole thing. I remember them, and all the people who subsequently helped me that day, as angels. I don't need to be considered an angel, I just hope I had some positive effect on this guy. I hope he didn't find out hours later, after walking around on his own, that he had a broken leg or a blood clot. I hope he was really as he seemed, just fine.

It's been almost two years, but I am just fine too.

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