How To Survive A Car Accident
Say “yes” when James invites you to L.A. with him for a weekend. Ask what kind of people are going to be there. Walk with your hands in your pockets and realize that you don’t know James very well. Feel a warm and mutual respect because you have read his poems in class before and liked the one about the boy who eats a mocking bird. Have conversations about life and death and joke about it. Ask how did that topic come up in the first place. Comment on his black fedora, that you think you like black fedoras.
Meet Jenny in a vacant parking lot, still blue colored from morning light. Look at her in the eyes because she is important to you. Lay on the roof of the car waiting for James in front of his house. Listen to Wu – Tang Clan vibrate the metal of the roof you’re laying on. Imagine sitting inside a plane when one flies overhead. You could hear the drug-induced non-anxiety coating James’s voice when he wonders where his keys are.
Take the I – 5 North towards L.A. / San Bernardino. Sit shotgun and get assigned to be DJ. Listen to the calming clicks from your iPod. Take peppermint gum from Jenny. Acknowledge you have never done anything with these two friends before. Jenny appears glowing while driving. James in the backseat sinks into the cushion, closes his eyes.
Open and close windows. Talk about past relationships and laugh in unison during sexual parts. Get distracted with other passengers on the highway. Imagine relationships with those that make eye contact with you. Try, and remember Mary in a positive way and cut wind with your hand through your open window.
Play Bon Iver. Light a cigarette to share around with everyone else in the car. Take unconscious drags of smoke.
Slowly pass a sixteen wheeler semi truck on your right hand side. Listen to Skinny Love. Notice a car up ahead swerving into your lane. Watch the car swerve back quickly to its own lane. Exhale when Jenny reacts and turns the steering wheel closer towards you. Hold the armrest while your own car swerves out of control. Notice how calm your breath is. Let things happen. Swerve into the semi on your right. Crash with the momentum of the cabin and everything behind you. Close your eyes. Duck somehow. The roof above you caves down and down again. The noise is tremendous. Glass shatters and rains in small bits and pieces and falls on top of yours and your friends’ jeans.
Realize the car is stuck underneath the semi. Get dragged underneath while the semi is braking on the the I – 5 North.
Lose your glasses. See blurry and near sighted. Leave the car through Jenny’s driver’s side door and keep walking away. Feel a strange urge to keep walking away. Resolve to baby steps. Jenny is ahead and James is behind you. Ask if everyone is okay with your mouth.
Hear your friends say your name a few times. Watch Jenny cover her own mouth. Experience your blood filming down your cheeks. They say you are the only one injured.
Lay on the hot pavement in front of the truck. Realize you are still chewing your gum, while cars are still passing by. When James starts asking you questions about Bon Iver, notice the softness in his voice and know he is trying to keep you conscious. Chew the stale gum and answer all his questions. Talk about everything you know about Bon Iver. Cover your head with James’s white dress shirt. Hear Jenny crying and gasping while she is standing above you with her cell phone. Understand you have a gash. Say something weird, like you are still chewing your gum.
Love your life. Think about fighting.
Say you are conscious when a man appears. Say “thank you” when the man identifies he is a doctor, someone who had pulled over, dressed in civilian clothes. Say your name is “Richard” and call him “Brian.” Say you are conscious when there are paramedics. Say you feel no pain in your legs when they ask. Look up at moving clouds when they massage you into a neck brace. Say you are conscious. This is the first time you have been inside an ambulance, so remember everything. Love your life. Feel convinced you have no regrets. Feel the ambulance drive away and the road beneath your back.
Ask how everyone else is doing. Notice how all the paramedics look at you in this way while they apply tubes and pat you down. They all say good. Listen to them discuss how you might be in shock.
Wonder if there is an imaginary clock somewhere inside you ticking. Stare at the ceiling and listen to sirens. Imagine traffic around you opening up and clearing a path. Move your fingers, move your toes inside your shoes.
Arrive safely to the hospital. Know without knowing you are going to be okay. Watch the ceilings change as they guide you down hallways, double doors and elevators. Ask more people how their days are. See smiles and feel touched you have the power to surprise them. Hear more talks that you are in shock. Enter the emergency room become tired under the lights and feel less conscious. Everyone wants you to stay with them. Listen to a disembodied voice, from a doctor walking around with an IV tower, describe your body parts. Your head has a gash. Your stomach is soft and supple. Realize your clothes are being cut with scissors and stay still. Say your name is Richard. Ask where you are. Ask anything you want to say, say anything you want to say.
Receive visits from nurses and common doctors. Slowly feel aches and strange pains in broad places in your body. Learn Nurse Renee has been tending to you even when you were unconscious. Feel empty without reason when Nurse Renee tells you everything is going to be okay. Feel alive when she stays there with you for hours on a fold up chair. Your family has been notified. On your head, there are nine staples and dried blood.
Experience bliss in isolating sounds and thoughts and moving your lips slightly. Say you feel good. Ask where your friends are.
Leave the emergency room like nothing happened. Feel the sensation of being filmed when hugging James and Jenny and your aunt who arrives from Newport Beach, who all have been waiting for you in the waiting room. Look everyone in the eyes. Notice there are no magazines. Say you are ready to go.
Suddenly turn around and watch Nurse Renee run through some double doors to hand you a slip of paper. She says, “You’ll be needing this.”
Read a prescription for Vicodin with her name and signature. Watch her shake your hand and wait a moment before she leaves. Eat dinner at a Pho restaurant with your friends and aunt in your hospital gown. Devour hot food and noodles. Talk all night and teach Jenny and James how to say “We almost died” in American Sign Language.
Meet Mary in a parking lot, some place random in Santa Monica, and cringe when you notice her new boyfriend. Feel like you should have died when Mary makes a few jokes about Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and caresses her new boyfriend near his thighs. Listen to The Mountain Goats and remember you authored this mix tape for Mary and watch the highway for hours. Enjoy affinity and human connection watching James sign “We almost died” with his hands in the backseat with you. Listen to Mary joke more.
He says, “We should have called someone else to pick us up from L.A.”
Say everything is okay. Find bits of glass everywhere for days.
Get invited to a Halloween party. Go to the Halloween party and shake hands with people you know and people you don’t know. Say thank you when someone complements you on your costume, on how how lifelike the wound appears. Say hello. Lip sync some songs you like from the party. Sing the chorus. Rap “Living life without fear. Twenty five carrots in my baby girl’s ear.” Rap “Birthdays were the worst days. Now we sip champagne when we’re thirsty.” Say nothing when everyone repeats “party and bullshit,” while leaning against a wall.
Laugh only when something is funny. When something is funny, remember to look someone in the eye because you liked what they just said. You want them to know.
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Will it feel the same when you tell me you love me over the phone? Will the peacefulness of those words still floor me from thousands of miles away?
I was conflicted. It felt like one eye was trying to look away while the other soaked it up. I felt the heat rise in my face. This was wrong. But it didn’t feel wrong.
Any nervous flyer knows the progression of descending panic: bile, sweaty palms, social awkwardness and self-induced sedation.
I know how it feels when the weight of darkness crashes down onto your chest in the middle of the night, and how you wish things would stop spinning because the axis seems tilted now. I know, love, I know.