(Time Shift: I wrote most of this last week, didn't finish it and forgot about it until Auntie Burl posted a link about the crash on Facebook- she'd navigated it less than ten minutes after the event. I finished it up today but was too lazy to go through and change all the tenses.)
Contrary to his habit of late Fuss slept through the morning while I cleaned house & packed books, and when finished I light footed it down the stairs & out the the door without waking him. Even though I know he hates waking up to find me gone, which is why he's started waking up earlier.
Or so he'd explained to me the other morning.
But with him everything takes forever, particularly goodbyes, and I needed to leave right that minute lest I miss the opening bell at the outlet and cede a head start to the other Junk Ghouls who also make their living off the detritus sifting through the floorboards of our capitalist wonderland.
So, off I went.
Only to run aground on a sandbar of becalmed traffic backed up over the hill past the cemetery.
My immediate response was to curse loudly and creatively, which seems to be the genetic imperative of the species when thwarted on the road.
Then I considered causes. It was too far out of town for sewer construction, so...car crash. Mom had always called the hill I was ever so slowly cresting "Dead Man's Curve", and I'd seen my share of wrecks there during childhood commutes into town. While they'd eventually pulled its fangs by grading off the peak, widening the road and straightening out the curve, her label stuck.
Our vehicular tide eventually crested the hill and was greeted by a multicolored haze of spinning emergency lights.
There's something inherently eerie about siren lights without sirens, and it larded my decent with ever greater foreboding. A dozen police cars, multiple ambulances, several trucks, traffic at a standstill for miles, everything but the lights moving in slow motion, all urgency spent.
With a sick cramp in my gut I inched past the first wreck, a red car that now looked like nothing so much as a crushed cigarette butt- it made a cautionary display high up on the pedestal of a flatbed tow truck. The one still in the ditch hadn't fared much better and the question of fatalities seemed to be not if, but how many. The third involved vehicle was the only one still looking more car than abstract sculpture.
As uniformed personnel directed our convoy through the gamut of ruin with blank, professional precision I made the story about me, another seeming genetic imperative. What if I'd been earlier? Our own invincibility in daily life is assumed, but even the most able & cautious among us are vulnerable to a myriad of woes we have no more influence over than we have dominion over moonrise and sunset. Simple day to day existence requires a certain level of denial, with unlikely possibilities and outcomes fudged, blurred out, smeared off to the margins of our life story, there to be ignored.
How could I have crept out on Fuss? What becomes of his life when something which deeply and irrationally concerns him actually happens?
Dada went to work...and never came home.
Although this is mildly irrational, because if I wake him up, shower him with love and THEN get mowed down...is that any better? Maybe in that therapy sort of way that something concrete you can come to grips with is better than flailing in a void.
Anyway, rub,smear, shove...exile that thought to the margins.
At last I exited the accident's malign zone of influence. A construction worker heading the other way had climbed out of his truck and braced himself on the front bumper, phone held high to take a photo, a memento of the unthinkable.
It turns out that the driver of the crushed red cigarette was heading home drunk at 7:30am, veered into oncoming traffic and wiped out the car in the ditch before inflicting incidental damage to lucky number three. I was thoroughly gobsmacked to discover all parties had survived- the drunk untouched (of course- drunks always safely, bonelessly flop through accidents which decimate the aware and responsible,), the 60 year old woman who's car ended up in the ditch in serious condition with a variety of injuries, and lucky number three treated & released at the scene.
I called Fuss when I got to work, apologized for skipping out on him and promised it wouldn't happen again.