I was in a car accident recently. My own fault – sort of. Exhausted out of my mind, I fell asleep for the briefest moment at the wheel. Brief. About three seconds. Enough so that instead of making the left turn I intended, I went straight and slammed into a wall. It was the airbag that woke me up or, rather, knocked me into reality.
Enter the bystanders. “Are you alright? What day is it? Who’s the President? Have you had anything to drink?” Enter the paramedics, same questions. Enter the police, same questions (were they all handed a script before checking on me?).
“Yes,” I answered, “I’m fine. September 5th. President Obama. A few beers.”
Of course the ‘few beers’ part was enough to incur judgment. No, I was not drunk, but I know it goes with the territory. Did I need medical attention? No. Was I sure? Yes. Sign here, please. Of course the officer did a field sobriety test. Fine, let’s get it over with. I passed with flying colors. And of course, a few days later, I’m sore and I think I broke my right pinky.
My partner, Keith, showed up five minutes after I’d called him, which was about thirty seconds after the accident. Thank god he was there. Even if there wasn’t anything he could do, it was comforting to see him standing nearby, stoic but firm, asking questions I wouldn’t have thought to ask, offering me a genial smile each time I looked over at him.
The wake up call hit me later, when I was home, suffering the hurt I knew would come from the airbag slamming me in the chest: I could have killed somebody. I could have killed myself. The road I was on is popular for cyclists; one could have passed by as I drove straight into the wall. Luckily that didn’t happen. The only major thing bruised – despite my chest and pinky – was my ego.
Of course I couldn’t have predicted that I might nod off, even for the briefest moment. Maybe it was lack of sleep. Maybe it was the stress of being unceremoniously slighted by Starbucks. Maybe its’ the stress of finances. Maybe not having eaten in 12 hours played a part. Who knows? All I know is I’m lucky it wasn’t worse. Much, much worse.
My vehicle was towed. According to Keith, it was pretty bad – whole front end smashed in and up. After the cop let me go I went straight to Keith’s car and sat there until it was time to leave; I didn’t want to see it. At least we have insurance, and everything – so far – is going the way it should: it’s in a repair shop, might be a total loss, what the fuck do I do now? All I know is I felt such shame. How could I have allowed this to happen?
“It’s just something we have to get through,” Keith offered. And he’s right. But still. I’ve had dreams since about being slammed with the airbag, pushing me back enough to snap my neck, killing me. I think what needles me the most is having to go about my business as if nothing happened. Yep, I was in an accident, car towed, body ragged, mentality jarred…so how about this heat, isn’t it something?? I’ve already made attempts to grab my keys to go to the store, only to realize I have neither the keys nor the car. It’s unsettling.
I take it in stride, I suppose. I was in a massive car accident when I was 19 – wrapped that sucker around a telephone pole. I knocked out all the power in Rancho Santa Fe. And I lived. You know what’s weird? The cop had me do tests that seemed to have been tailored for me: finger/counting exercises (sign language, much?); stand on one leg, raise the other, count to 30 (um, hello, most of my gym workouts). So, it makes me want to to say – are you ready, because it’s existentialism at its best:
It’s like what happened was exactly what I’ve made it out to be: a wake-up call. I’m simply not meant to leave this world yet. I have things to do, things to say. I haven’t left a footprint on this world yet. I chalk it up to fate, I suppose.
Anyway, now that I’ve sufficiently rambled. I just needed to get this off my chest. I need to take writing more seriously anyway, if that’s what I want to do with my life. I guess it’s okay to ramble, then.