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Thursday, November 15, 2012

My friend from school picked me up and was driving me to the Thespian Inductions at my school last Saturday. She lives by me and has given me countless rides before. We were talking and laughing about something or another and generally just having a regular conversation, although I don't remember what about.

I just remember seeing a funeral procession in the other lane, going the opposite way. I think that both of us were looking at the same time as a carriage pulled out, drawn by white horses. Neither of us said anything about it, that I remember, I just recall looking up at the funeral procession and the dreamlike carriage with the startlingly white horses.

And then the next thing I remember was that all the volume in the world got turned way down and everything happened really fast. The world seemed to crumple all around me, the air bag exploded into me, and a disgusting gas smell filled the air. I don't even remember very well what happened in those next few moments. I think they've been erased from my memory. I didn't even really register what had just happened. I just opened the door and spilled out of the car, ran around the wrecked bumper, and hugged my friend--who was already sobbing and I don't even think I realized why yet.

I don't know how long it took for my eyes to land on the twisted metal wreck that was the other car. I think what I noticed first was the broken glass below our feet. The car had been flipped around in the other direction and propelled into the left-turn lane. The whole back end was completely smashed. It was a total mess.

I don't think people can really understand the cliche--"It was all a blur"--unless you've been through something as nightmarish as that experience. All the chaos of getting in a wreck, tumbling out of your car, realizing you're somehow completely okay, and then the thought entering your head--"What about the others?"

But it really was all a blur--a terrifying, nightmarish daze--as my gaze fell upon the other two people in the car. I don't even remember first seeing them. But they were black. Two black women, and young. One was sitting back in her seat, blinking and staring blankly ahead, and the other was slumped over. I couldn't see her. She didn't seem to be moving.

The world seemed like it had derailed. All my thoughts were fevered and my panic was ice-cold as I thought, "What if she's dead? What if she's dead?" My friend was howling now, and I was just clutching her tightly and saying, "It's okay. We're okay. It's okay."

Another black woman, dressed in black and probably in one of the cars in the procession, had hopped out and was calling the police and checking on the women in the car. (Both had moved now, and the emotions that ran through me as I saw this were nothing so sweet as relief. I still could hardly breathe.) It didn't occur to me to go over there. I couldn't possibly. They were floating up somewhere in space, beyond my reach. Helpless. I was rooted to the spot, clutching my friend and comforting her. But she was alright. They weren't. I don't know what I would have done, but I felt unspeakably awful now for not moving. I didn't even think of going over there.

Soon one woman in the car took out her phone and made a call. My eyes were clued to the pair of them, trapped inside this contorted hunk of steel. She put her phone away, and soon her eyes slid over to us. I couldn't look away. I was terrified. She just stared at us. Not with hatred, or fear, or even pain. She just looked tired--so so tired. And then she looked away again, slightly strained.

Sirens wailed, and the police came. We were sitting down by now, in the same spot, smoke and disgusting smells spilling from my friend's own totaled car and glass all over the street. Cars honking and zipping around us. Firemen teemed out of the truck and surrounded the car, blocking the two women from our view. We sat there, watching, and my friend was rocking and whimpering, "Please get them out of the car. Please just get them out."

A policewoman came and talked to us. She had tough eyes and a gray voice. I don't even remember what she said. We could hardly talk. I called my mom but she didn't pick up. I called my dad and he just said he'd be right there.

We sat down again. After more tears and terrified waiting, a woman's voice erupted from behind us.

"Where's my daughter? Where's my daughter?" she wailed. My friend started sobbing freshly, and that's when I started crying too. We both stood up and swiveled around, and the woman was crying too. I was prepared to be screamed at, but she just wrapped my friend in her arms and said, "It's okay, baby. It's okay. It's gonna be okay."

The next few minutes were an agonizing wait for the firemen to wrench off the car doors, which took over a dozen of them and maybe a quarter of an hour. The ambulance arrived, as well as my father, followed by my mom and my friend's dad. We hugged, and everyone said some things I don't remember, but in the end we just ended up watching the firemen.

Eventually the doors were broken open and the two women put on stretchers and loaded into the ambulance. Both cars were towed. Her dad, who she always described as an ass-hole and who greeted her just by patting her arm and saying, "You weren't kidding," said to her, "Get your stuff out of the car. You're not seeing it again."

As the ambulance sailed off, we signed a handful of documents. The same policewoman talked to us some more. My mom asked about injuries. The woman said that we would probably just be sore in the morning and have some bad bruises. She said sometimes when you get hit from the side, your aorta tears and you bleed to death within days without even seeing it coming, but that's usually just from side-to-side. For the past few days I've been constantly terrified that some part of my heart has torn and I'm slowly bleeding to death.

She described the condition of the two women as "stable." Then she added, "To be honest, I'm amazed." She said that if there was a person in the back, they would almost certainly have died. We were incredibly lucky. Unbelievably lucky.

My dad drove me home and I slept for hours. The whole day seems now like a terrible, bizarre dream.

And I know that I'm lucky. The hospital called and said that the women are "okay." (That's all we've heard.) And we got out of it with just a little bruising where the seat belt was.

But I haven't woken up every morning delighting in every breath I take and every time my heart beats. My perspective of the whole world hasn't changed. I haven't "found Christ" or been Enlightened.

Everything is pretty much the same, except driving terrifies me now. Every minute spent on the road I envision a thousand different scenarios of ramming into other cars and suffering instant death or my legs being crushed or my neck twisted around--and it's exhausting and nerve-wracking.

I guess what it's made me realize more than anything is how fragile we are. How fragile life is. It could be gone in an instant. We're such soft, vulnerable insects--and death is everywhere. That doesn't mean you should live in your bedroom and never leave your house, but death is a fact of life. Maybe from that you can decide how to live your life.

If I should be grateful for anything this Thanksgiving, it's that I turned out okay. And that they did, as far as I know. But people can't really force themselves to be grateful, can they? We're just animals. We live until we die. It hasn't really sunken in that I could have died in that wreck, or that someone else could. If it ever does, well, I don't know what I'm going to do. How that fact would change me.

I think it's time I finish with this strangled sort of philosophizing. But in answer to your comments before, yes, I'm okay--not really even bruised anymore. Just a bit shaken from the whole experience.

Tried out for the musical this week, though, and we're driving up to North Carolina for a Church Retreat tomorrow afternoon.

Happy Thanksgiving, if I don't get to post before then.


Gabi said...

Holy shit.
I'm so glad you're (at least physically) okay.

My friend got hit by a car last year because he was reading as he walked. (My type of person.) He's okay. He could have not been okay. Everything is so fragile.

I'm glad everyone is safe.

Furree Katt said...

Oh my goodness, this was really sad and I struggled through the entire post. I am SO glad that you and your friend are okay and that the others involved in the accident are in stable condition as well. I know it will take some time to return to emotional and mental stability (it's impossible not to be shaken up inside after being involved in such a massive thing). I've been in an accident before too, I know how it can feel. And yes you don't necessarily NEED to feel 'enlightened' and what not. Just thankful.
Big hug to you! Feel better soon.

Abby K said...

It's such a relief to hear that everyone involved is okay. I've been waiting on tenterhooks for the past couple of days for this post! I'm sorry you've been through something so traumatizing, but it's really a testament to your strength that you're able to write about it and eventually breathe and move on. I probably would have been a mess.
This was a harrowing post to read. You still write beautifully, even under duress.

Happy Thanksgiving. I'm glad you're back.

Kay said...

Oh my god.

Chris, I don't know what to say. It's this kind of stuff that really makes you... disoriented.

It's kind of a stupid thought, but I considered what things would be like if things turned out differently. My letter would remain unanswered, and this blog would sort of dissolve into oblivion.

I don't know.

I'm just so glad everything's alright.

Jillian said...

Oh God Christopher.
I vaguely understand the feeling of things literally becoming a blur. And how terrifying that is. I'm glad that the ladies in the other car were "okay". Thankful that you and your friend only have bruises. The bruises people can't see are the hardest to heal though.

Jen said...

Chris, I am so sorry that that happened to you.
I wish you all the best and I hope that you heal soon. If you ever need to talk, I'm here for you, yeah?
God... I don't even know what to say.
Here's an internet hug, okay?

Because you need it.
Be well.

Alex said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alex said...

I'm scared of driving now. I wish I hadn't read this the day before I get my license.

I'm really glad you guys are ok. I feel bad about not calling like crazy when I first heard about what had happened. I guess I just didn't think that it was real, that it couldn't have really happened. I just ignored it I think because I was scared. I'm sorry.