I haven’t looked at myself in a mirror in almost two days. Not that I think it looks that bad, just that it’s easier to *not* be self-conscious about it if I don’t know how I look. I only know how I must look by feeling my face whenever I put ointment on. I know it’s pretty noticeable.
Since the crash just happened Friday night, and neither of us are working this weekend, it doesn’t feel real yet. We’ve only had to go somewhere once so far, and we had a ride for that, so it doesn’t feel real that we don’t have a car anymore.
On the whole, I found myself switching into researcher mode in order to distance myself from the whole event. Truth be told, we were just another statistic, and our visit to the ER confirmed that. We were within a mile from home, at the most likely time of night, on one of the most likely days of the week, immediately following a rain storm. Lots of people were in the ER for one reason or another, and our reason just happened to be a car accident.
And the person who hit us, from the little we know, is also another statistic. Someone who had stolen the Tahoe earlier that day, most likely male adolescent, driving recklessly.
As a researcher, I would love to see a slow-motion reenactment of the crash in order to understand all the bruises, scratches and cuts we have now. As Lori and I look over each other’s injuries, we try to imagine what part of the car or the broken glass would have left that mark in that place or this place. And how two people sitting next to each other in the same car can have such different injuries is also fascinating. Lori was cut up pretty bad across her arms and legs, with her knees swollen from heavy bruises. Her torso and face are fine. I’m just the opposite. I have deep bruises all around my abdomen, some from the seat belt, some unexplainable. My face makes more sense — scratches from the flying glass; a black eye and burn marks from the air bag. My arms and legs are fine.
Looking back on the evening, I am disappointed that I don’t have more details captured in my memory. I’m kicking myself for not taking pictures. The crash itself happened so fast, neither of us are exactly sure what happened. One second, headlights are coming at you. The next second, you’re in a cloud of air bag dust on the side of the road. The next hour was a confusion of faces – all good faces of people who rushed over to help us, to be witnesses, to offer blankets and water and phone calls. Some people went out of their way to help us and we are very grateful for that.
The one face we don’t have is the other driver. I think I prefer it that way. I don’t like feeling hate toward anyone, and if I had a face, I might be directing a lot of hostility at it about now. As it is, I can focus on the helpful people instead. The psychologist in me is fascinated by the extremely different emotions I’m feeling after this crash versus another crash I had a long time ago. The other crash wasn’t even a real crash, since I was able to drive the car away afterwards. It was just me against winter. Blizzard snow, black ice, downhill on a highway. I slid off the road, into a ditch and through a barbed-wire fence. There, too, the only face I had was someone helpful, a man who pulled over and got me out of the ditch. With only myself to blame, I had no need to reconcile with anything negative. Winter beat me at driving, and I maintain a healthy respect and admiration for winter, even now.
This crash on Friday, though, stirred up a completely different reaction. Sitting in the ER for four hours afterward allowed plenty of time to think. I started out angry. But I realized that, statistically speaking, even if the car thief doesn’t get caught, he might not even live to be my age. And it really doesn’t matter if he’s caught or not, because someone who has to steal a car is not going to be insured. Rather than losing a bet against Mother Nature, as I did that winter long ago, we had some really bad luck — wrong place at the wrong time. And that’s really all it comes down to. The reckless-driving car thief was going to hit someone that night, it happened to be us. Since he was able to run after abandoning the vehicle a couple blocks away, he probably isn’t injured. Lori and I keep finding new bruises. The philosopher in me is wondering what exactly all this is going to teach us, how this experience is going to prove beneficial later on.
The irrational not-a-scientist in me says, no matter what the temperature is today I’m going to curl up on the couch with tofu noodle soup and a book.