Last Friday at about 6pm on my way home from the gym I rear ended the SUV in front of me at about 50 mph after I glanced away from the road for a mere moment – two seconds – tired from the gym – there was the back of their vehicle in my headlights – no time to swerve or move though I tried and – my car – their car -BAM – airbag explosion in my face –
I’m lifting my head and it’s quiet and the cabin of my Honda CRV is smoky and my engine – in front of me – practically in the window – a gnarled and gnashed mess of dull grey corners and curves and I wipe my lip with my hand, a bit of blood. I bit my lip. Is my hand burned? Body feels all in working order although the wind is well knocked out of me and my chest is tight. I don’t feel or seem injured. I can open my door and I climb out and onto the asphalt highway. A sea of red brake lights surrounds me in the middle of the highway, horns honking because goddamn I just screwed up everyone’s evening commute but no one is stopping just honking. I manage around the other side of my car and, 50 feet ahead, along a path of the broken glass and detritus of my car, is the other driver and car with it’s impacted bumper and this young girl is coming towards me yelling about how I hit her and it’s a new car that she just got and why did I hit her how is she supposed to trust anyone ever on the road blah blah blah and I’m just apologizing because shit I’m alive but I’m sorry I hit her I didn’t mean to yes it’s terrible but it’s useless to be angry but she needs to be angry at someone.
I walk to the side of the highway and, crouched down against the railing, stunned and shaking and shaken, call 911 and they tell me that CHP will be on their way and everything will be ok. A white van pulls up on the other side of my car, blocking traffic, and the guy gets out and comes over to check that I’m ok and he’s looking at my car, amazed I made it out because my car is a crushed mess. He checks again that I’m not hurt and I tell him my chest is in pain and he says it’s from the airbag which hits you at 250 mph or something but, well, accidents happen at least you’re ok, man. It’ll be ok. You’re lucky your alive. And this isn’t the first time in my life for that statement.
The friendly samaritan leaves when the CHP show up and they’re just nice professional highway patrol taking down all the details. It’s not major. There’s no ambulances so it’s not major. No big deal. Business as usual. Accident clean-up is an efficient process. They’ve called the tow company. They’re dealing with the girl I ran into and the guy she ran into. The tow guy shows up, this heavier hispanic dude and the cop, a buzz cut white dude, calls him ‘brother’ and I think ‘only in California’ and I’m grateful for these moments of human decency.
And Violet – who was about ten minutes behind me – who came upon my crushed car sitting sideways in the middle of the highway with the airbag deflated and me not in sight – comes running up to me holy shit what happened are you ok and I’m a bit in shock but I am ok. I’m ok. I just… I look at my totaled front end car and again shake my head, I just looked away a moment… I wasn’t touching my phone or anything I just… It’s a bit much and I want to sit down and we get all the stuff taken care of with the cops and my mind is replaying the crash again. CRASH. again. CRASH. again. Crash… crash… What have I done? What did I do? Just accidents… all the things that lead up to this… just little things, so many little things.
The road is clearing and my car is loaded onto a flatbed truck and I will go back and retrieve the paintings in the back – 5 big paintings in the back – that are also ok. I go and gently sit in Violet’s car while she finishes up with the cops. My body is wracked but in such minor ways, I remind myself, such minor ways, tense and tight and my chest feels torn and I can’t move very well but I’m alive and shocked. And alive.
An accident on the life highway and the angel of grace that said – o no, not you, it’s not your time. You have work yet to do.
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