In the bleak midwinter…

The commute this morning was far from pleasant. The temperatures are supposed to drop the below zero by this afternoon and linger there for a while. It’s hard living in this climate. Lots of stories of injury and illness set in hospitals and hospices. Struggling through this winter morning I found myself thinking about a January from a bit over a decade ago. I think it was 1996.

At the time I was tech directing a play in a small amateur theater. One of the actors in it would go on to have an actual career in film and television. On Christmas Day this year there was a jarringly incongruent moment in my brain when their familiar face floated in the TV screen during a marathon of the drama they play a regular role on. In 1996 they were someone to whom I was explaining the importance of standing in the areas of the stage where the lights were pointing.

I had finished the day job and was heading back to my apartment for a few hours before the call for that night’s show. I was actually proud of the work we had accomplished. We were doing Terra Nova and had put together great props and setpieces, including a recreation of the sled Scott used on his trek and a glacier field across the stage. Of course, there were downsides to doing a play in January which ends with the cast freezing to death, but it was still a memorable experience. It was an unusually warm day, and I’m fairly certain it was January 31st, because my car insurance lapsed the day before. I had just lit a cigarette and rolled down my window when I saw her pull into traffic.

There was no time to stop, though I tried. I glimpsed her blank face and the child in the seat next to her as I pulled to the left and pushed the brake down. The impact on the passenger side was jarring and the noise was overwhelming. I was shoved into oncoming traffic towards the delivery van of a local florist. I pulled hard to the right and had the determined thought that the last thing I saw would not be the terrified eyes of the obese woman behind the wheel and that I would not be killed by a shipment of lilacs

The impact along the drivers side stunned me. I have a lucid memory of sitting in the car looking at the burning cigarette in my fingers in stupefied wonder and hearing the clatter of pieces of my car falling to the pavement. I sat there until the paramedics arrived and took me out . They put me on a board and immobilized my neck and spine. What I remember most about the ambulance ride was hazy grey light streaming in through the small square window in above my spinning head. It was an astonishingly quick ride to the hospital.

There were hours spent waiting once it had been determined that I had suffered no obvious trauma but needed an MRI before they would take off the collar and back brace. They wheeled me from room to hallway to room while waiting and at one point I found myself next to a fellow who was staring at the ceiling from his stretcher. I tried to make small talk but he didn’t talk.I remember how distinctively unusual his fingers were, like scabby claws that I couldn’t imagine actually manipulating anything.

The MRI wasn’t bad. It actually was a very Star Trek experience, but I don’t suffer from claustrophobia.The aide who came to wheel me out recognized me; he had been in a play with me the previous year. I asked him about the person that I had been waiting next to with the unusual fingers. Fransisco said that the man had been in a car accident over a decade earlier and was getting his regular MRI; he was a quadriplegic who lived in an extended care facility.

Fransisco left me in a room to wait for the doctor to give me the results of the scan. It was maybe fifteen minutes, but it was a profound fifteen minutes for me. I bargained with God. Two years later in a courtroom a moment after the judge determined I was not at fault for the accident and told me I was free to go the attorney for the florist begged me to join their lawsuit against the woman who hit me; I literally laughed at how easy it was to refuse.

Lara came to get me from the hospital. Our lives swing in complicated orbits of platonic harmony with rare moments of near collision that shake our worlds with terrifying passion. This story falls in the midst of one of those brief eclipses; as I recall those weeks it occurs to me that during this same span the weather turned freakish and a plane crashed into her apartment building. Maybe the universe was sending us a message, but that night I did not worry about disaster or death for I had been delivered into the arms of love. To fully convey the span of my thoughts and feelings in those few hours would require a novel more epic than Dante’.

I have to be up early to try and start my car. Goodnight.

One Response to “In the bleak midwinter…”

  1. I for one am glad things went the way they did that day!

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