An Accident

I went into Maura’s office and sat down on her chair. “I just saw someone get hit by a truck and run-over.” She said whoa, or something like whoa. I don’t remember. To tell you the truth, I don’t remember much of this morning, other than the absolute silence of watching an actual being bounce beneath the bed of a dump truck. But I remember that. I remember the silence. The surreality. The noise, of which there was plenty, is a completely distinct memory. Something honking, the sound of jaws dropping, me: “Was that a person?” to the woman standing next to me on the street. Her: “Yes.”

Truthfully, I always thought the jaw dropping thing was apocryphal, fictional. But I stood at the corner of Spring Street and West Broadway with my mouth agape. Force equals mass times acceleration. Force equals mass times acceleration. Force equals mass times acceleration. That man just bounced under the wheels of that dump truck until it stopped on him. That truck is huge. I am First-Aid certified. What can I do? Was there any blood? How come I didn’t see any blood? How did that just happen? What just happened? I am First-Aid certified. Do I want to see whatever is there? There are already so many people there. If I go to coffee shop instead of helping a person who just got hit by a truck, am I a bad person? Is life a miracle or an aberration? What is it that I can honestly do?

I went and got coffee. When I came out, the ambulance was roaring onto the scene. A crowd was there watching. Apparently the man was alive underneath all the blood and weight. Since I could not solve anything, I left. I went to work. I went to work and I sat down in Maura’s office.

Maura told me yesterday that she doesn’t trust me, which made me sad. As is my wont, I pretended that my sadness was a show, but really, if someone tells you that they don’t trust you — even couched within a conversation about how she trusts no one at all — you kind of feel the sting. And so it was a bit weird to sit in her office, to confess, “This is deeply fucked up, and what just happened?” She told me that if she could she would buy me coffee, and about how she once saw the bloody remains of a pedestrian-automobile accident in Montreal, on Sherbrooke. I wondered what had happened to our friendship, and whether I should ever work with a friend ever again. I said, “Life is short,” slapped her desk, and went back to my own.

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2 responses to “An Accident

  1. Hey Tom,
    As a piece of writing, this is so-so… certainly not your best. However, I really like your nervous returns to “I am first-aid certified… what can I do?” God knows, I’ve felt that same anxiety, and your narrative captures the feeling. Real life is never really portended in practical trainings.

    I also identify with the changing nature of relationships. Maura doesn’t trust you. Do you wonder who else holds you as a friend, but not one to be counted upon? Yeah, me too. And then, there’s the bureaucratization of friendships… that’s gotta be awkward. No way around it.

    Just a few weeks ago, I was riding home from school. It was about ten at night, half-raining, no moon. A car shot up onto the Broadway Bridge under a green light, but failed to notice that the lane veered to the right. The car slammed into the far side of the bridge as I straddled my bike, talking on the phone with Rosie. I blustered and hung-up and ran over to find a mostly-conscious passenger, and a driver that was clearly knocked silly by the airbag-mitigated impact with the heavy steel railing. Despite my own first-aid training, I felt utterly incapable of helping. Luckily there were several other people approaching the wreck. I was on the phone with 911. The operator asked if someone on the scene could perform CPR if needed. I surveyed. Yup. Two people raised a hand. I asked the first police officer to arrive if I could leave. “I heard the accident from the other side of the road, but I think that others here actually saw what happened. Is it okay if I take off?” I was supremely relieved when the guy said “Yes.”

    If I had been called upon to revive the victim, I could probably have gone through the expected motions, regardless of my own nervousness. There is something to be said for learning and practice. But, what if I tried and failed? Oh, God! The irrational guilt! If the cop lets me go, the “worst case” is someone else’s problem. Thank you, Officer Handy! I strode to my bike and pedaled home without a glance back.

    Don’t let it get you down, my friend. Life is freaky, and unpredictable, and seldom just. If you were afraid to help, maybe you weren’t the best guy to provide assistance. Sounds like there were others milling about. The ambulance showed before your coffee could go cold. That guy is probably fine.

  2. Joe,

    Sometimes getting a few lines right is enough.

    And my coffee was already iced.

    -Tom

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