2.08.2005

the unexpected and the unfathomable comes careening over edges in slow motion, yet the blink of an eye, and all is forever changed and any security that i had, any illusion of preparedness is forever challenged by this, the unthinkable: the semi truck crashing through space, sparks flying from its body and me below, driving alone late at night on the highway; and me below, wondering and staring and trying to figure in the splittings of seconds what the fuck that is. and the subsequent bracing for impact - the foot slamming on the brakes, the head crouched in between shoulders, raised up to meet ears, the body tense, arms locked, all tilted ever so slightly to the right - and impact. the noises i imagine are all fiction - i cannot remember. it is a tunnel either of noise or of silence - the sounds i've invented of crushing metal and glass and skidding truck-trailer along concrete and asphalt, or the hollow echoes of my brain thumping in my head, everything too loud for sound, just the feeling of the roof caving and hitting my head and the sight of the sparks and the shattered glass and twisted metal, the darkness enveloping me as the diesel fuel tanks explode splashing amber fluid all over the suddenly million-pieced windshield, now half hanging out the car, on the hood, the door and roof all slanted down to the ground and i am there, as we are skidding to a halt, waiting simply for death. and then we stop. and there really is silence and i reach out in the darkness of my smashed car for my cell phone wherever it was and dial immediately my husband and the words come in screams, "i have been in an accident, a semi fell on my car, i am trapped in the car, i think i smell fumes." all that sent through space whizzing across town to his ear, wherever it is that he sits with my son, who is up very late playing as usual. there is no way for me to know what he was thinking in that moment, how it touched him, whether it caved in his chest or made his skin go cold, but he tells me to calm down and try to find a way out of the car. i frantically press the lap belt release button over and over in panicked movements, realize that it's not the lap belt, but the shoulder belt stretched across my legs, pinning me to my seat, and still on the phone, still panicked, still rushing, reach down and slide the seat back and try again to lift my legs, but there is no room, not enough slack, and i calm for a moment, enough to reach outside the car, through the hole where my door used to be, down and underneath the crushed roof beside my head and find very carefully the shoulder strap release button and manage to press it and it lets go and there is momentary relief in me as i crawl into the passenger seat and inform jon of my escape. but i am still smelling fumes and i am waiting any second for the truck beside me to explode just as it does in the movies after it falls from the sky. i reach over and turn off my car and pull out my keys and stick them in my pocket. i grab my purse and i try to get the passenger side door open, again panicking. it doesn't open, so i unlock it, and it still doesn't open and i look back between the seats and see cars stopped on the road behind me and a pickup truck, one of those monstrous things, comes forward and i try to reach my tiny hand through a hole between the roof and the door, to wave and i scream "help me" in a terrified, horror-film howl, and he drives past and i bang on the window as i am giving jon a running narrative of what is going on. again i look back through the front seats out the rear window and i see someone standing in the road, hand to ear, presumably dialing 911, and i try again to reach in the hole in the roof to wave and i scream again for help and they stand unmoving, and i tell jon that they can't hear me. i realized when looking between the seats that i couldn't fit through due to the crushed roof and the bulk of my son's car seat, so i reach down and recline the passenger seat back down to it's furthest and try opening the rear passenger-side door, then unlock it, all frantic, still waiting for the explosion, for my fiery death, then open it and crawl out of the wreckage and tell jon that i am out and that i will call 911 since he had asked me why i had called him instead of 911 while i was still stuck within. the truth is that if i was about to die, as i expected, then the person i needed most to talk to was jon. when i am alone and when i am scared, i am aching for my other half and that is him. when i need to reach out of the darkness and touch something to pull me home, it is him. if i have nothing else, i cannot live without my husband. outside, in the cold, on the highway, dialing 911, i walk hurriedly away from the car, wanting to get away in the case of sudden fire, though becoming more sure that it will not happen, i approach the man on the phone and he asks, "is there anyone in the vehicle?" and i do not understand what he means because clearly i am no longer in the vehicle, i am on the side of the highway, standing in the shoulder, in the snow, out of fear that a car will not stop soon enough before the backup and will send a car flying down the highway to kill me who has just evaded death twice already. and a bored, man's voice comes through on the phone and i say where i am and what has happened and he says, "ambulance, fire or police?" and i say, "yes." then he says, "what city?" and i say again where i am and in the same bored tone he says, "what city?" and i say "i don't know what city!" because i don't know which exact suburb i am in and he repeats again like some robot, "what city?" and i am still not understanding and say, "what?!?" and again like a recording he says, "what city?" and finally i scream, "cleveland, ohio!!!" and the phone begins to transfer and ring again and the man on the highway says to me again, "is there anyone in the vehicle?" and finally i say, "no - i don't know about the guy in the semi." and a woman has answered the ring and says, "cleveland police" and i tell her where i am and what has happened and the man is still asking me questions and she says, "did the truck flip?" and i say, emphatic, needing that she understand what ridiculous, unheard of thing has occurred here, needing that the people on the phone come to realize just what an emergency this is, "a semi flew through the air and landed on top of me." she says, "okay, we'll get the police right out there." and i thank her, again emphatic. the man asks if i am okay and i am not certain if i answer, but i know that i am thinking, "fuck no - a semi just flew through the air and landed on my car!" i tell him at some point that i am pregnant, thinking that this needs to be known for whatever reason, thinking that this unbelievable event should have especially not happened to me given my fragile state. then, not knowing what to do with myself, i begin to sob and scream there on the side of the highway and i turn around and around looking for someplace to be, something to lean on and for a moment as i am howling, i look over the industrial complex that is the center of all the intersecting highways in cleveland and wonder where the fire is that spits from the smokestack periodically, and i notice and feel for a second the night and the cold and the stillness of one in the morning. then the semi-truck driver comes out of the wreckage, holding his bleeding head and i wander away from him as my phone has rung with my friend sarah on the line drunkenly wondering about coming to get me. then the cops arrive and the man on the highway tells them i was in the car and that i am pregnant and they stare at me in disbelief and ask, "you were in that car?" and i say, "yeah" with a big valley-girl lift at the end as though to say, "but i'm not anymore you dimwit!" and they ask, "are you okay?" and to the one cop addressing me i say, "no! i am freaked the fuck out!" and he leads me to his cruiser to sit down and everyone who sees me can't believe that i wasn't dead or bleeding or hurt even and i crack jokes with the emts to calm myself, and i talk on the phone to jon and my mom and get strapped to a board and driven in a fire truck to the hospital, where i stay for 15 hours, having ultrasound and doppler use galore to ensure that my placenta remained intact and that the baby kicked and moved as it should. in the days that followed, i became the center of a media blitz that culminated in appearances on both good morning america and the today show, and a call from the folks at oprah that will theoretically result in a show sometime this spring. normal life seems to have resumed for the most part and i am healing and baby is fine, kicking, growing, unaware in her oceany home...

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