I thanked the shuttle driver, grabbed my bags off of the rack and made my way down the steps. I heard the door close behind me and I watched the driver speed off toward the airport terminal.
As I made way over to my car, I stopped to notice the thin layer of dust that had accumulated during the 3 weeks that I had been in Texas for work. I set my bags down on the ground and fumbled through my briefcase to find my car keys, I popped the trunk, loaded my bags and slid into the driver’s seat, exhaling deeply.
There was a strange sense of foreboding that enveloped me, but I dismissed it, associating my unease to it being 2AM. I quietly groused over the penny pinching of my Fortune 100 corporate parent wondering if they picked the absolute latest flight because it offered the greatest cost savings. Nonplussed, I turned the key in the ignition and made my way out of the lot, anxious to get home and sleep in my own bed.
The ride back home was uneventful as the expressway was relatively free of traffic. Once I got off the expressway and into the Baltimore City limits, the feeling of foreboding returned and again I associated it to the late hour.
I pressed the button to open the sunroof – letting the breeze rush through the car, it was comfortably cool outside. As I started the final stretch home I began to take solace in the fact that this business trip would be over with in less than ten minutes.
In the distance I noticed the flickering of a set of headlights coming towards me, it didn’t register initially, but I quickly did a double take because this was a one way street and this person was going the wrong way. I didn’t panic initially because I assumed that the driver would come to the realization that they were going the wrong way and quickly right themselves.
As I noticed that the car was now less than a block away from me and closing… It was at this point that the sense of foreboding that had haunted me in the airport parking lot rippled through my body again.
Their headlights illuminated my car with an eerie glow, I tried to move to the right and they followed me, I hit the brakes and I did the only thing I could do.
I saw everything around me going in slow motion – the bending of the hood, the car merging around my body, the cracks spreading across the windshield like a spider web, and unfurling of the airbag as it plowed into my body with torrential force before I faded to black.
“This isn’t fair!”
Was the prevailing thought echoing in my mind as I saw my life flashing before my eyes.
This was how it was going to end.
In my car on this deserted street in the wee hours of morning.
I thought of my son and wife… Wondering how my parents would take the news, thoughts of my siblings and my friends was overwhelming.
Why didn’t I take the tollway instead of driving through the city I bemoaned?
I felt myself spinning out of control…
Then it happened.
There was this voice that I heard as plain as day:
“Son, you’re not ready yet!”
It was a raspy voice that I recognized as my Aunt Lillian, hearing her gave me a sense of comfort but before I could process hearing and feeling her presence.
There was another voice that called out.
“Shunny-Baby, you’ve got work to do, it’s going to be okay” and I heard an infectious laugh that I knew to be my paternal Grandmother, besides she was the only person who called me Shunny-Baby.
I saw her in this flowing blue dress and the panic that had filled me dissipated as quickly it came.
I felt them on each side of me with their arms locked in mine.
I was safe and they had me, but how?
They didn’t answer my queries about what they were doing there with me.
I felt them push me suddenly… And I woke up coughing.
There was a lurch followed by a hissing sound filling my ears – I looked around hoping to find my Aunt and Grandma, but they were gone, I was slumped over on the headrest with the airbag draped over me like a shroud.
The hissing noise was complements of the airbag and the gas erupting from it was filling the car with a rancid white smoke that was burning my lungs. I tried to make sense of what just happened and I was startled to see a man pounding on the window screaming:
“It’s all my fault man, please don’t be dead – Are you okay man? Do you have your insurance?”
His questions swirled around me and I struggled to place where I was with my head pounding and body rippling with pain, I deduced that this was the person that hit me.
I looked out the passenger side window realizing that the sound of the crash must have rustled people from their homes as a crowd had gathered on the street and I heard someone scream out:
“This fool killed this man… He’s gotta be dead!”
I opened the door, took a couple steps and I remember the people lining the street looking at me incredulously – like they were looking at a ghost.
I turned around and noticed that the driver that had caused the accident was following and staring at me with these saucer sized eyes prattling on about his going to see his daughter and this accident being his fault. I turned in his direction, choosing my words carefully as my head was still thick with a fog of sorts:
“You fuck, this is one way street asshole, get the fuck away from me!”
And with that I must’ve collapsed on the street.
Because when I came to, I was laying on a board in an ambulance with 2 EMT’s inches away from my face shouting instructions – imploring me to stay awake, asking me what happened, what my name was… I was groggy, but I was lucid in replying:
“Well that asshole was driving down a one way street, the end”, I quipped.
I tried to sit up, but couldn’t, because my neck was immobilized with one of those halo devices and they forced me back down to check my vitals before a policeman came by to take a statement from me where I unleashed the same profanity laced tirade that I tendered to the EMT’s. I was able to raise my head slightly from my position in the ambulance to see my car and the gravity of what happened really started to sink in and I snapped this picture.
I almost died, I could have died, but I didn’t – I was still here.
I saw my late Aunt and Grandmother… Despite saying our final farewells nearly 2 decades ago.
As the ambulance rumbled down the cratered Baltimore streets, I tried to reason with myself, convincing myself that I just hit my head really hard…
That I wasn’t crazy.
They told me that it was going to be alright, but more importantly they told me that I wasn’t ready yet, because I still had work to do.
Love truly has no boundaries… I had not 1 Guardian Angel, but 2. Possibly more I reasoned. I laid back with my eyes filled with tears, grateful for an opportunity to continue my journey, but wondering what was the work that they were convinced that I needed to finish?
Life is full of metaphors, often we make the mistake of trying to explain away what is staring in our face. On this day and others God was speaking loudly through my experiences, only for me to shrug them off. As the ambulance sped me to the Hospital, the thought crossed my mind that this job that I spent 3 weeks in training for was going to be the end of me.
I remember thinking that I hadn’t finished the book that I had callously set to the side in pursuit of this myopic climb up the corporate ladder.and the sense of unfulfillment was all encompassing.
As I came across the pictures from my accident this afternoon, the lesson that was provided came through with deafening clarity, albeit almost 2 years later. The injuries that I suffered to my hands served as a reminder that of the work that my Grandma and Aunt were referencing.
I could have lost my life that night, but I didn’t.
In retrospect it was a call to order, a reminder that I wasn’t using my hands, instead I was foolishly chasing an aspiration that wasn’t mine to have.
I stubbornly pushed on and got the answer that I needed.
Thankfully, I’ve gotten all of the range of motion back in my hands and I suffer no ill effects from the accident.
I realized that these hands are supposed to write and doing anything less than that is a waste of the finite resource of time.
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