i was surprised at how little traffic there was on friday afternoon. on a beautiful holiday weekend, i thought everyone would be clamoring to get up the maine turnpike. but there were few travelers, and even at 5:45 on a friday i was making good time.
on that long stretch of I-95, i looked away for just a moment. the moan of the rumble strip snapped me to attention and i thought a quick correction would put me back on course.
but a too-quick correction would derail me completely.
someone asked me afterwards if it happened in slow motion. actually, it couldn’t have happened any faster. i was barely aware of what was happening as it unfolded. i don’t remember being scared and i don’t believe i even screamed. after a second of futile steering i resigned myself to the next instants, and braced myself.
i don’t think i was aware of the moment the car tipped over the embankment. all i knew was that one second i was veering and weaving across three lanes of a busy highway, and the next second everything was spinning and i was swinging disoriented and helpless in my seatbelt while the world turned around me.
and then everything stopped.
someone called 911. someone had me lie down. someone checked my spine for fractures. someone offered to call my family and i yelled NO, because how could my mother hear “your daughter’s been in a car accident” without thinking the worst? someone told me “it’s just a car, the important thing is that you’re ok” and i thought, that’s silly and trite and easy for you to say, you’re not panicking your family and you know how you’re getting home tonight and you know where you’re sleeping tonight and you’re not all alone here having to figure out what to do next while you grapple with a brush with death.
the ambulance came. a kindly EMT chuckled at my jokes, my last standing defense mechanism. a quick visit to the fine people at maine medical center produced a clean set of hand x-rays and sent me home with icepacks and bacitracin and gauze and information. and after a few hours, with a little help from a couple of dear friends, i dealt with the logistics.
the next day i came home. phoned. cried. slept. showered. cried. got dressed. dinner. drinks. cried. slept.
the next day i reveled in the feeling of the wind on my skin.
i could’ve collided with another car. i could have rolled another quarter turn and broken my neck or been trapped. i could have hit a tree or a utility pole and crushed my skull. i could have punctured my gas tank and burned. i could have been on a bridge and gone over the edge. i could have been the sort of person who doesn’t always wear her seatbelt. there are a lot of ways that story could have ended without me here telling it.
but here i am, not even a stitch in me. just some gauze and a band-aid, a sore tetanus shot, and some blue-brown bruises.
it doesn’t feel real.