Tuesday, July 19, 2005

 

In Which Life Goes On...

And so I died.

(Didn't see THAT coming, did you?)

My grave sits, surrounded by others that share my last name, atop a quiet hill in New Hampshire, overlooking the huge tract of land that in the 1630s was granted to my ancestor Nicholas. My mother won’t visit the grave--after all, I'm not there. But my dad ambles up the hill sometimes to weed the grounds and stare at the stone and wonder what would have happened if I had survived. Would I have escaped trade-magazine hell? Would I have finally achieved my ambition to write some kind of book? We'll never know.

Her Lovely Self, unexpectedly the last person on my mind just before the end, married her old college boyfriend or some other dink who made her feel stupid and worthless, a fate she had predicted to me the week before I died (This was not long after the party where I was compelled to dispatch Joe, just one of the kind of dink beautiful women like Her Lovely Self so often attracted into their lives). They have no kids. They don't even have a dog, such as Blaze, a wonderful, heroic and somewhat over-protective dog who lives a pampered life with a kindly animal hospital employee.

And this blog never came to be.

Meanwhile, in an alternate universe, another version of me sat in his car, already a wreck (both the car and he) as he spun four or five times across four lanes of oncoming traffic. Defeating all odds, he missed every car, and then was hit four or five times by one car in the last lane. The Caddy almost sent him down into the El tracks, but instead, he came to rest in the breakdown lane. He sat for a moment, too stunned to move, still embalmed in the certainty of his own death.

And then he became me, as my consciousness left the universe where I was killed in a car accident and found its way into this one, what I would eventually come to think of as Earth-M ("m" as in "miracle"). My neck hurt. My legs ached (I had used them to brace myself inside the tiny cab of my car). The pain was wonderful, being as it was proof that I was no longer dead.

And then I smelled something. Exhaust? Smoke? Had I just left a universe where I was killed in a car accident only to find myself in one where I burned to death horribly? Screw that! I reached to open my door, but it was bowed inward, hopelessly smashed shut. In less time than it takes to type this, I was out of my seatbelt and across the passenger side. Except that door was blocked by the concrete retaining wall. I rolled the window down in three mighty jerks, then threw myself out the window and up onto the retaining wall.

And here's the El, bearing down on me.

I twisted and flopped forward across roof, sliding down onto the hood of my car as the El roared by. I caught my shirt on the jagged edge of the front fender, then flopped bonelessly onto the tarmac before rolling to my feet and sprinting from the car. I ran straight ahead, up onto the stopped Caddy in front of me, bounding up on its hood and over its roof before sliding off the trunk to the road again.

I probably would have kept on running, but just then, the driver of the Caddy--an older gentleman whose only distinguishing feature I can recall at this point is that he was from Romania--leapt out of the car and called to me. "Stop, my friend! Stop!" He darted after me and snagged my shirt. He wasn't mad. He just didn't want me running in blind panic onto the expressway. "You are okay, yes?" he asked.

"Fire. Smoke. Get away," I gasped, pointing at my car.

He turned and looked, still holding my shoulder. My car's muffler was gone and plumes of exhaust were rolling up from the back. There were no flames, no black smoke. We watched for several seconds and nothing appeared to be about to explode.

"Your car is still on," the man said.

He was right. Somehow the impact must have shifted the car into neutral so instead of stalling when we came to a stop, it was just idling there. Shaking, I walked back to it on legs made of rubber. I reached in through the driver's side window and turned the engine off, then grabbed my keys.

I leaned against the retaining wall, my new Romanian friend leaning next to me, jabbering away. "I am so sorry to hit you, my friend, but you jumped in the front of me and I have no choice. I am hoping there is the insurance to make a payments for you and me."

Traffic is slowed to a crawl and people stared at my car, then at me, some talking and pointing. Suddenly, a middle-aged man in coveralls dashed across, panting and standing before me. It’s the driver of the truck.

"Holy shit!" he exclaimed in my face. "I thought for sure you were dead!" He put a hand on my shoulder--perhaps to see if I was real--and then slumped next to me on the retaining wall.

"I was," I assured him. "I really was dead. And now..."

I had no more words, so we sat there, calmly, placidly. There were no heated exchanges, no accusations. After a while, three police cars showed up. After a quick check of the three of us, one of them got on a radio and called off the paramedics, while another took each one of us aside, considerately out of earshot of each other, and took our statements. They ruled the accident as no-fault, because the truck driver's account and mine conflicted. He insisted I veered into his lane, which was absurd because I was exiting. But at the time, we were all just grateful that no one was hurt and no one was getting a ticket. With the report finished, a wrecker arrived on the scene. The cop who looked over my car said, "You know, if we can pull this bumper away from your rear wheels, you might be able to move the car." Together, the three cops and I pulled. The bumper was little more than plastic and literally tore off in our hands.

Shaking, I got in the car and started it up. Impossibly, the engine not only turned over, but the car was indeed drivable. In a huff, the driver of the wrecker left. The cops stopped traffic and allowed me to pull across the expressway to the Addison exit ramp. I got out. One of the cops looked at the exhaust pluming out from the underside of the car and said, "Better check underneath, make sure nothing's leaking. If it seems okay, drive it straight home and call your insurance company."

I hunkered down on my hands and knees and peered under the car. A few things appeared to be twisted, but nothing was leaking. I paused a moment, caught my breath. Still on my knees, head bowed near to ground, I thought, Well, as long as I'm here... and uttered a brief but heartfelt "Thank you, thank you. I won't forget this." Then I stood. The cop gave me my copy of the report. Already the truck, almost completely undamaged, was gone. My Romanian friend in the Caddy was looking mournfully under the hood of his car. His engine was running, but a fan inside was making an ungodly clanging racket. He slammed the hood, got in and clattered away.

The drive home was a blur. I took surface streets the whole way, keeping my speed to around 25 miles per hour. I got home around midnight, to a series of increasingly incoherent messages from my pal Matt, wondering where the hell I was. I decided to call him in the morning. I took a shower, pulled on a fresh shirt and boxers (the latter of which I sorely needed, I assure you), then I climbed into bed and proceeded to stare at the ceiling for the next seven hours. I didn't think about how lucky I was. I didn't about getting a new lease on life. All I could think about was that poor dead guy one universe over, and how the people in his life would be affected when they found out...


Comments:
Glad you made it out alive!

About three years ago I hit some ice and did a sweet 180 into a ditch. It was quite a glorious wreck, but time did stand still while I was sliding and I remember thinking, "I hope I don't die". I then proceeded to put the car on it's side.

I sat there for a second and then climbed upward and out through the passenger door. I had no injuries, but that blistering Decemeber wind chill spelled sweet relief for me.

So what did you get out of the insurance company?
 
It is amazing what people can walk away from. My husband had a similar experience, he rolled MY car (I wasn't in it)through a cow pasture and walked away with nothing. Amazing.
Glad I am in this universe and not the alternate one where your blog doesn't exist!
 
Loved the presentation here.

You must be part cat, for all the lives you've spent. That, or you have a horseshoe stuck up your butt.

You HAVE to write an autobiography. Call it.....Memoirs of the Cliffhanging Sex Man.
 
Having discovered your blog through the blooger toolbar, I hope you don't mind saying that I have a ebooks site/blog. It pretty much covers ebooks related stuff. Check it out if you have time.
 
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