Our Little Deaths
I’ve been commuting to downtown DC for over a decade now, and combining about ten miles of walking with the commute as part of my “passive health plan.” Statistically speaking, I suppose it’s inevitable that I would get hit by a car. Though I live in fear of the increasing number of bicyclists who, despite a generation of pleading that we “share the road,” don’t actually practice what they preach and are all lawless menaces to pedestrians and drivers alike.
Today, then, I did get hit by a car. And it wasn’t some madman on First Street who creamed me, it was some lady about a quarter mile from my home.
Cold, rainy, I’m trudging past the Summit Hills Apartments in Silver Spring — roach patrol housing cum suburban chic — and passing in front of a car just above the Rosemary Hills entrance when the steady throb of morning rush hour slackens on the dreaded East-West Highway. This lady stomps on the gas, obeying some deep instinct which, without any traffic lights to aid them, I imagine is present in all Summit Hills residents. I get that brief millisecond to think: “Jesus Goddamned Christ!” and then I rag-doll onto the hood of her little Saturn like I’m in some sort of movie.
She takes me three lanes into East West Highway as we both stare at each other through the windshield in panic and horror, then she eases on the brakes and I slide gracefully off the hood and land on my ass.
I’m not thinking about anyone flying along the highway which, at that point, is a very real problem. Instead I sit there and try to decide which part of the day is anchored in reality and which is part of some fever dream. Is this my Jacob’s Ladder moment? I’m always waiting for that.
The lady is out of her car and in a blind, weeping panic. I stand up, brush myself off, poke at my legs and arm, stare blankly at two other pedestrians who are watching me with open mouths and wide eyes, then start laughing. I’m fine – not a scratch on me. Not a bruise, not even a tear in my clothes. Not even a tiny ache.
My shock drifts into a weird giddy excitement. I just got creamed by a car and dragged into the highway, riding the hood like a 70’s bad boy cop. I’m unbreakable.
I calm the lady down, tell her I’m fine, wag my finger at her jokingly, and continue the hike to the Metro and the commute.
It’s now settling in that I dodged a bullet. To celebrate, I’m taking tomorrow off. I’ll sit at home and write and have champagne for breakfast. Which is a normal day, really, when I’m not dragging myself to a thankless wage slave job. But it’s the all-important me time. No customers on the phone calling me names, no co-workers digging through my lunch like fucking untrained monkeys, no bosses who remind me of Denethor in the Lord of the Rings movies.
Of course, I should have gotten the driver’s information. I’m 35. My bladder is full of stones and my bones are turning to dust. But it’s now two hours since the incident and I’m still just fine, so we’ll assume nothing is hiding anywhere, despite the 17 people so far who have expressed detailed and obsessive concern about my “previous neurological condition.”
To be honest, though, my legs have taken more abuse from the poorly-placed coffee table in my living room. This really was a stroke of amazing luck.
Though it wasn’t severe enough to get the whole life flashing in front of my eyes thing, it has been a nice reminder of mortality. I think we all need those once in a while. Just when you start to fly high, here’s a little shocker for you. You can get snuffed out on the way to your low-paying job by some idiot in a car she can’t afford on her way to an identical job. And it all – yes – means nothing. It’s all so small, stupid, and wasteful. All that effort, days and weeks and months and years sacrificed for pennies, working under weak men and women who expect you to be grateful for the opportunity.
To die, or get maimed, on the way to that goal? Sad.
The last few months have been moving into a new theme of renewal. A realization that I’m cured of my affliction, once again in charge of my life, and able to reach for and enjoy the good stuff. Like boobs and cheeseburgers. So with each reminder that it’s all so easily taken away, I find myself delving deeper into my current navel-gazing. What can I do to change? Am I, legally, able to spray lighter fluid on people and torch them? No? Probably not… It’s hard to say. The laws are just so complicated!
Change is coming, though. Change is always coming, I suppose. It’s just a matter of embracing it. But, for half a year or so, I’ve been feeling that wheel of life slowly grinding. I’m ready. That, I think, is always the first step. I’m ready.