I thanked the shuttle driver, grabbed my bags and made my way down the steps, the door closed behind me as 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 was enveloping me, but I dismissed it, associating my unease to it being 2AM. I groused over the penny pinching of my Fortune 100 corporate parent and wondered if they picked the absolute latest flight because it offered the greatest cost savings, 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 apples to oranges comparisons that I sometimes make between Baltimore and my hometown of Chicago. I pressed the button to open the sunroof as it was comfortably cool outside, letting the breeze rush through the car. As I started the final stretch home there was a sense of relief as the stoplight changed to green, taking 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 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 because I assumed that the driver would come to the realization that they were going the wrong way and quickly right themselves. The sense of foreboding that had haunted me since I left the airport rippled through my body again, as I noticed that the car was now less than a block away from me, and they were speeding up instead of slowing down. 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 felt 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…
“This isn’t fair!”
Was the prevailing thought echoing in my mind as I saw my life flash before my eyes.
I resigned myself to dying in my car, on this deserted street in the wee hours of darkness.
Why didn’t I take the tollway instead of driving through the city I bemoaned?
Everything faded to black, 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 and 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 Grandma’s. 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, I was safe, and they had me, but how?
I felt them push me… And I woke up coughing.
There was a lurch followed by a hissing sound filling my ears and 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, please don’t be dead – Are you okay man? Do you have your insurance?”
His questions swirled around me, but didn’t make sense as my head was pounding and my body was 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, 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 thick with a fog of sorts:
“You fuck, this is one way street asshole, get the fuck away from me!”
And with that I collapsed on the street.
When I came to, I was laying on a board in the ambulance with 2 EMT’s inches away from my face shouting instructions, imploring me to stay awake, asking me what happened… I was groggy, but I was lucid in replying:
“Well that asshole was driving down a one way street, the end”, I quipped. I noticed that 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.
I almost died, I could have died, but I didn’t – I was still here.
I saw my late Aunt and Grandmother… Although we said 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 laid back as 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, breathing down our necks and hulking menacingly over us. On this day 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 spent 3 weeks I’m training for was going to kill me. I remembering thinking that I hadn’t finished my book and the sense of unfulfillment was overwhelming.
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… It was a call to order, a reminder that I wasn’t using my hands, I was chasing an aspiration that wasn’t mine to have, but 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 realize that these hands are supposed to write and doing anything less than that is a waste of time, time that is not mine for the taking, but it is merely on loan.
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