Things that go crash in the night: a car accident

Crash in the nightThe initial shuddering crash — more like a crack, really, like thunder — as the car meets the telegraph pole wakes me. My heart is thumping and I’m expecting the roof to fall in. My bedroom is full of light.

It doesn’t take me long to work out what’s happened. Looking out my window, I can see there are people there helping. There is no urgency about them, so I gather no one is hurt. I am home alone. Alone in the not-so-dark wearing a flimsy nightie. The first night home alone of what will end up being just more than five weeks. I feel somehow vulnerable and useless.

And then the process of clearing up, which I watch on and off, guiltily, through a crack in the curtains in my bedroom. I cannot see much, without my contact lenses in. Just broad strokes, no detail. Police lights, redirecting of traffic. A tow truck with its flashing lights and loud engine sounds. The creak of broken metal. No ambulance.

I lay awake for hours and hours, trying to slow my breath, worrying about my reluctance to go outside, thinking I should have. Knowing that if it had been me in that car, I’d have needed someone to come and help me. Then reminding myself that I’d checked that someone else had gone to help, that there had been no ambulance. And then starting the process all over again. Eventually, I sleep; a sleep disturbed by dark dreams I can’t quite remember when I wake.

In the morning when I leave the house, there is debris from the crash scattered all across the footpath in front of my house, and all over my front porch. There are skid marks on the road. I wonder about the circumstances of the crash, wonder what happened before it, after it. And still I am disturbed by the tension between my feeling of intense vulnerability in the night and my desire to help, not sure the right feeling won out. This will continue to bother me for weeks, months.

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