Car accident day

I was driving to work today and remembered it was July 9th— car accident day. Yesterday I forgot all about it, which is so typical, and didn’t remember until I was sitting at the light on Fairfield and Taylor today, on my way to the Boys & Girls Club. I looked at the clock and it was 10:15. Automatically I thought—wow, they would have still been cutting me out of the car. I was irritated in my memory that they hadn’t hurried it up already.

I texted Sprinky and said, “Do you know what today is?”
She texted back, “Oh yeah. Car accident day. Glad you are alive ☺”

I was glad too.

I was also really glad that I was not one of those emotional people who freak out over things like “anniversaries” or “flashbacks” and that I didn’t feel the need to call in to work or speak with anyone about it, that I was a triumphant, resilient enough person to just drive to work and say, “Oh yeah. That old accident?” and then flip the radio station.

But then, without my permission, Sprinky’s face popped into my head and I remembered her expression when she walked into the ER. I remembered trying to lift my head to tell her I was okay, but being held down by the neck brace and the Velcro on the backboard. I remembered tears pouring out, and the BGC staff standing around the corner behind the curtain. I remembered the guy pacing outside my car window calling everyone in my phone book, pulling at his hair and saying: fuckareyouokayshitfuckdon’tmoveshit! And I remembered those terrifying seconds between when the guy hit me and when the wheel of the semi came through my window. I remembered that panicky feeling of knowing I was going to die right there and that no one would even find out for, like, two hours. I remembered how scared I was after it all stopped and I was waiting for help to arrive.

The terror of that day—of 10:15 four years ago—clamped onto me, and before I knew it I was sobbing through the intersection—like, not a pretty little reasonable cry, but hiccupping and wailing and dry heaving, the kind where people in the car next to you mouth: are you okay? And you nod and then wipe your nose on your work shirt and breath in another staggery little cry.

When I got to the Club one second later, I sat there for a minute and called my dad (who was unavailable), sat there some more, breathed into a paper sac, wiped my face and went inside. I felt like I could pull it together. Then someone went and said “hello” to me. I lost it all over again and that caused a mild panic for the administrative staff, because they had never seen me act like this.

They tried to send me home, but I told them that I could not afford to go home, because my friends could not pay me an hourly rate to sit at home and console me. And then I told them, crying like a crazy person, “And I’m taking the kids swimming today. I love swimming.”

I think they were telepathically transmitting the number to Parkview Behavioral between them, but they offered nicely to work something else out so I could take some time if I needed to. They even said I could just leave and come back in a few hours.

Instead I told them (like any girl who knows her psyche) if they could just give me some good gossip, I think I could get my mind off it and I’d be fine.

They told me something juicy. Sure enough, that did the trick. An hour later we were discussing the van schedule and I didn’t shed another tear all day.

I ended up meeting Sprinky for lunch at the little downtown Starbucks, though, and after a few conversations about California and work and the price of gas—with a few random interjections like, “Then I got so scared when they started cutting the car” followed by, “Do you know how many calories are in this?” normal breathing was restored.

The experience itself seems so lonely, probably because I was the only one in the car and the other guy died. All I can do is try to explain it, which is never as satisfying as I think it’s gonna be. But lunch was great, and at closing time today when all was said and done, I felt like patting myself on the back and saying, as if I were 27 and 4 at the same time, “Yeah, that was scary. But it’s over. Let’s just go home.”

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Here is the original story, written in 2005, one year after the accident: July 9th 2004

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Waiting never prospers.

The thing about patience is, I don’t have it.

My brother said they weren’t planning to call anyone until after Lily was born.

(I took that to mean hurry up and get to the waiting room the second Jess is admitted.)

I resisted that urge all night.
I resisted it all morning.
At noon, I packed up a day’s worth of entertainment and headed for the hospital, sort of expecting to see her whole immediate and extended family, and the neighbors and the Target cashier and the old guy down at the bike shop, and, generally, everyone except me.

I parked and stepped up to the elevator with my little “hello sunshine” onesie in hand, and when the door opened, I was face-to-face with some lady holding two giant overflowing gift bags and a blue overstuffed human-sized teddy bear. I sighed and pressed the button. She had probably been invited.

I followed her to Labor and Delivery. The desk attendant said we had to have an access code to get up to the waiting room. What are hospitals coming to these days? The other lady whipped out her code and was on her way. For me, they had to call the room, make sure it was okay, and then Bryan had to meet me at the elevator.

I stepped off the elevator, rounded the corner and there he was. I laughed, dropped my bags, and told him I just couldn’t help myself. Like any good brother, he said it was okay, and then he led me to the waiting room. Which was empty. I mean, not a single other person in the room. Turns out, when he said they weren’t calling anyone, they actually weren’t calling anyone.

He said it would be a while, that it could even be another whole night. I just smiled proudly at my resourcefulness and pulled out my handy computer and stack of magazines. “I’ll be fine,” I told him. “Don’t worry about me.”

We talked for about 20 minutes, which was nice, and then he went back to Jess, who had just received her epidural.

(Let the record show, I was first.)

So… now that we’re all just sitting here in the waiting room, what should we talk about?

Oh! I know, let’s play with the camera.

Here is me normal.

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And, me without my V8

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Without my chin

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With extra chin

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Before my nose job

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After my nose job

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With no teeth

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Cross-eyed

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Before a date…

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…with myself

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Double Wide

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Extra Long

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So, the intake receptionist keeps sneaking peaks over her computer, and I don’t want to be escorted to the psych ward. I think I’ll quit taking pictures of myself and cracking up at what appears to be nothing.

How about the Belizean Cuisizean party? It was a hit! The whole team came (minus, like, 2 people) and we had a great afternoon eating garnaches and telling stories. Although, packing up and walking out of the house felt like closing the door on a very significant and meaningful chapter in my life. Hopefully there is an encore. Like, in November.

Pictures of the day:

Note. It might appear as though my shirt says “hell” but it actually says, “hello” which I thought was appropriate for a welcome home party.

Lisa & Denise: the CFI peeps running the show while I was there

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Denise is also a part time disc-thrower.

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Tortilla station

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David’s obnoxiously large Mickey Mouse tortilla

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Oh, Becky. (I took 3 pictures to catch her taking a bite)

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Me & Kenz

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The crew, plus Denise spinning records, which she also does, part-time

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Ashley E. Roomie of my heart.

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Um, is the baby here yet?