Saturday, June 15, 2013

Deer and the Headlights

I was 16 years old and a passenger in a car. Riding in the back seat with me was my friend who was about to start his first day at his dream job. We were far out a twisting country road and had car trouble. We had gotten a ride with two men and a woman. They sat in the front bench seat of the '70 Plymouth. The car had huge mag wheels in the rear and smaller than stock in the front. We hesitated to take the ride. My friend would have been late for work and we had to get to a telephone. Five minutes later the man driving took us head-on, in thick fog, in the wrong lane, with guardrails on both sides of a two lane bridge approach, under the front bumper of a garbage truck. We were going so fast, when I saw the headlights I only had time to hold my breath and close my eyes. My friend has not worked a job since, or remembered who I am. His cheek and forehead were crushed. My back was broken. Ex rays showed my injury had been within one degree of severing my spinal cord. (I am lately obsessed thinking about back injuries) I had my feet tucked under the seat which prevented me from going straight out the windshield, I hit the roof with the back of my head and shoulder. The bounce, is what almost severed my spine. My friend hit the window post, as he was leaning forward before impact. We prevented those in the front seat from flying out the window while we bounced around like balls in a pinball game. The driver had a broken nose and a cut on his knee. He was drunk and AWOL from the local military base.
Twenty five years later I drove that road for the first time since the accident. The same song that the driver of the Plymouth had blaring was playing on my car radio. I remember the song because he had turned the volume low enough to turn to me, yelling over the music, just before the crash to ask if I liked his car. I said "Yeah! You can slow down anytime!!" A few moments later I was looking down at the crash scene from above the fog bank having a long discussion with no one in particular about what this family member or that family member was going to think if I decided to stay up there. Out there. It was a long, timeless, calm discussion until I had a thought that made it urgent that I go back. Before I could think the word "back" I took the most pain filled breath of my life.
I digress.
At the moment in the song where we had impacted twenty five years earlier when I came over the bridge and slowed to look. On the beat , a deer jumped over the guardrails where the wreck happened. Like someone had synchronized the rhythms of the two moments.

I am not going to proofread this . I will surely delete it...