A year ago, today, my life was turned upside down.
I had just watched my mom get remarried after having been with my dad for 25 years. I was driving over to see my dad around 930pm. His driveway butts up to a busy street on which I had been rear-ended badly not six months earlier, so I drove a half-block past his house to make a left turn onto a side street and then turn around.
I was slowing and downshifting to make the left turn from the center turning lane when I heard loud, screeching tires. I had no idea where they were coming from until I was slammed into head-on.
When I opened my eyes again, I was facing oncoming traffic three lanes over on the other side of the street. My horn was blaring. I had glass and airbag dust in my mouth and nose, and the smell of gunpowder was overwhelming. I had to get out. My driver’s door wouldn’t open and I panicked. I started to roll down the window, ready to crawl out if necessary. Then I took a breath, climbed over my gearshift and got out the passenger side.
I stood by my dear, demolished MINI Cooper and saw a man walking toward me from his vehicle, now stalled in someone’s yard just beyond my car.
He got very close to me and I saw blood running down his face. He asked if I was okay. I said, no. He walked away and got back in his vehicle.
The neighbor whose evening we’d disturbed was now outside; she followed the man back to his car and then came over to see if I was okay.
“Did you smell the alcohol on his breath?” No, I can’t smell anything but gunpowder, still. “I called the ambulance.” Thank you.
She started walking back behind his vehicle and I stopped her. He’s gonna back up! I shouted. Instead, he drove forward through the yard and down the street, away from the accident. Away from me. And this.
It was then that I realized I was dripping blood onto this woman’s driveway. It was coming from my left hand. I was also spitting it out with the powder and glass that refused to get out of my mouth.
A couple passersby had stopped at this point. I had started to walk the two houses to my dad’s house when I decided against it. I asked one of the men who stopped if I could borrow his mobile phone because mine was somewhere in my car.
I called my dad, do you hear the horn? “What?” Can’t you hear the horn blaring outside? I’ve been in an accident!
I was mad. I was frustrated. I was in shock.
People kept trying to get me to sit down. I had specks of sparkling glass coating my arms, my face, my clothes. I had blood droplets on my jeans. My new jeans. Go figure.
The police, fire engine, and ambulance arrived. I asked a fireman to retrieve my phone, another to turn off my damn horn. I remember thinking to myself to be very polite and call them ‘sir,’ the policemen ‘officer.’
In the ambulance, the paramedic was heartbreakingly gentle as he wiped the glass from my arms and feet with a wet paper towel while I called my mom, just a few hours into her honeymoon. She frantically asked if she should come home and I told her no, I was alright; I’d be alright. She really wanted to come home, but I wouldn’t let her.
After the phone call, the paramedic told me that I had a great attitude, considering.
They took me to the hospital where I had x-rays on my hands, chest, torso, knees, and feet. My chest took the blow from the airbag and seatbelt, my left hand had a laceration on the middle finger from the broken windshield and the heel of my right hand had a contusion from the gear shift and imbedded glass; my knees hit the dashboard and my feet had been depressing the clutch and the brake. My right foot was the worst with horrible swelling, contusions, and two fractured toes. I couldn’t walk.
I got stitches on my middle finger, which I quickly called Frankenfinger. I got a prescription for pain meds. Then I quickly got a sense of my physical pain and mental trauma.
Getting into dad’s truck wasn’t very fun, but the drive home might have been worse. I wouldn’t let him turn right on red in an intersection. I wanted him to go about 10mph under the speed limit. I gripped the door handle so tight, my knuckles were white. Suddenly, I was afraid to be in a vehicle.
Then it wasn’t just being in a vehicle that scared me. It was not being able to walk. It was my heart stopping when I heard screeching tires or a horn outside my apartment. It was checking the lock on my door three times before bed, knowing I wouldn’t be able to fight back or defend myself if someone were to break in because I was already hurt. It was needing everyone to text me when they made it somewhere, saying ‘drive safe’ like it was a desperate plea, not just a suggestion. I was sure everyone I knew and loved was going to be in a car accident. It was being so angry. So. angry. Seeing my car at the impound was… an experience. Now it was in broad daylight.
A year later, I still have anxiety: I worry about my boyfriend driving to and from work, I worry about him crossing the street to take the dog out at night. I don’t trust anyone on the road. I never drove on dad’s street again. I still don’t like hearing screeching tires or horns. Every time I come to a light, I have to keep myself from watching the rear-view mirror. I’m constantly ready for evasive maneuvers. I finally had to accept the fact that if I’m meant to die in my car, I’m meant to die in my car. I could have died that night, but I didn’t. I walked away. I lived, and now I’m living. I owe all thanks to God and my MINI, my dear British Chap who sacrificed himself for me.
I’ve got a new MINI now. I call him Richard. I’m living with my wonderful boyfriend, the man I was lucky enough to live to meet. We moved up to Saint Paul and got the cutest puppy in the world, Olive Adventure. I’m still seeing a chiropractor for my neck and back, my fractured toes still give me trouble every now and then when I run or exercise. I can’t do much on my knees. My chest bones pop occasionally. And I’ve still got my Frankenfinger.
As for the driver, well, he got a bit of punishment after sobering up in jail that night.
I wonder if he’ll think about me today around 930pm.
He’ll be thinking about me soon enough when I start recouping damages.