While listening to this song (click on the video below to hear it while you read) early this morning it brought to mind the car accident I was in when I was 12 years old.
I was with my uncle and aunt, traveling by car from Auburn, Maine to Listuguj, Quebec, where my grandparents and half of my mother’s family lived.
We were on our way to my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary celebration. So exciting, with the promise of a huge gathering on the reserve of all family members near and far. People we hadn’t seen in ages and ages.
My little sister begged, pleaded and cried to come with us instead of waiting for Mom and everyone else to pile into the station wagon for the trip. The more she begged, the more she angered Mom and completely eliminated her chances of coming along.
It was just me in the back seat, directly behind my uncle who was driving. My aunt in the front on the passenger side, silent and nervous, keeping her anxiety to herself. Me in the back. I was just enjoying all the room I had and the absence of Mom.
It was a grey, overcast day, with intermittent light rain, just enough to keep the highway slightly wet.
Almost to the border I noticed a car up ahead waiting for a chance to turn into the restaurant coming up on our side of the road.
Then it happened. I don’t remember much, except we were not going fast. (30 mph I was later told) Uncle was a safe driver, careful to drive under the posted speed limit, making it feel like we were not moving at all usually.
When I woke up it was silent in the car. The absence of sound is creepy, very eerie. Unnatural.
It didn’t really last long, not in actual time anyway. But in my mind, it lasted forever. It gave me too much time to hear the screams in my head, loud and clear. It gave me time to realize the car was crushed, that the roof above my head was almost touching the seat. In that moment I understood I was not on the seat, I was on the floor, below the place where I was just sitting, fitting neatly in that space behind the driver’s seat and the back seat where my feet were just moments before.
In that silence I could not move. Frozen in time. I could not make a sound. All my capacity to project sound out of my mouth was diminished to nothing, sending the sound directly into my brain only, so that every thought was amplified to ear-splitting, deafening decibels. And, trying desperately to listen to any sound that might come from the front seat, hearing nothing, filled me with a dark foreboding unmatched by anything I ever felt before. My aunt and uncle were silent. Not moving. I was in a vacuum.
Something was preventing me from opening my eyes. I tentatively raised my hand to wipe my eyes. Something wet and sticky met my fingers. I just dropped my hand back to where it had been. It was really heavy anyway. I was able to just see a tiny bit out the side window. I couldn’t move my head but I could raise my eyes enough to look up that way. It hurt my eyes to do that, but I was curious.
Weird to see so much movement and activity through that window. People rushing around the car. Their mouths open in what I could only imagine to be shouting. I spotted an ambulance, a fire truck and a police car. Men in uniforms. Lots of other people with no uniforms. All hovering and moving around the car. It made me dizzy, all that movement without sound.
Finally I heard a weak groan. A whimper in a higher pitched voice. It was at that point I lost consiousness…with relief I’m sure. Can’t really say for sure. Don’t remember.
When I next opened my eyes I saw a man’s face really close to mine, wiping my eyes, my nose and mouth. Once my eyes were clean I could see clearly enough to understand I was inside a restaurant. Lots of people watching. Why was I alone? Where’s my aunt and uncle? The man said to me they were in the ambulance and on their way to the hospital. My ambulance was almost here. Does your head hurt?
My answer “Only when I laugh”. People were laughing hysterically. It wasn’t that funny.
I think I passed out again because when I next opened my eyes I was lying down and moving at the same time. A bed on wheels. Cool.
I could see all the tables as we passed them, people’s food left untouched and lots of those strangers had their heads bent. Huh. Were they praying?
I saw the roof of the ambulance next, felt the movement and every bump. It felt like we were going really, really fast. Whee!
Blankness until I see the doctor, needle in his hand, aiming that long, long thing at my forehead. I put my hand up to stop his. He smiled at me. He had a nice smile. Kind eyes. I put my hand down. He said he was going to freeze my head and sew it back together. He promised to do a really good job, so the scar wouldn’t make me look like Frankensteins’ bride.
When I woke up that last time, I felt nauseous. Once I threw up I felt much better. And I had a friggin’ headache. When I put my hand up to touch the top of my head someone stopped my hand. A nurse. Telling me not to touch it. Infection. Told me to wait for the doctor. So I waited. Not long. Doctor arrived with a mirror and showed me my stitches. Yuk!
I couldn’t really see the stitches. There was a bunch of dried blood and my hair was all full of it. Gross man! Doctor said I couldn’t wash my hair for 10 days and told me to make sure I didn’t touch his “handiwork”.
All I remember next is the arrival at my grandparents house. Everybody was outside. The whole front yard was FULL of people, some crying and some not. My grandpa had wet eyes. My grandmother did not. Neither did my mother. One of my uncles was screaming in drunken rage how he was going to “kill those fucking bastards”, and one of my cousins was throwing up. I felt really dizzy again. My Mom was holding one arm and my older sister (how did they get here SO fast?) on my other side, holding my other arm. Mom was pulling me and sis was holding me still. Mom was telling me “the least they could have done was wash all the blood off you and give you a clean shirt!”. Bitching as usual.
My uncle that was drunk took that white sweatshirt soaked in blood and burned it. And cried the whole time. Such a drama queen.
My aunt that was in the car had tiny little pieces of glass embedded all over the skin of her face. Too small to pick out and way too many pieces they told her to gently rinse them away, a little at a time. Her arm was in a cast.
My uncle’s thick black glasses had snapped in half. He said they told him those glasses probably saved his life. One of his biceps was black/blue/purple and hanging weirdly underneath. He said it didn’t hurt much. He kept patting my back.
If my little sister had joined us she would have sat in the front seat between my uncle and aunt. She would be dead.
I was not in any of the pictures, doing everything possible to avoid any and all people with cameras. Most of the dried blood stayed in my hair until I returned to have the stitches removed. Which the doctor took out easily and placed each one on my face. There were 52 stitches.
The scar is barely noticable. And it’s fairly straight. No funny little holes left behind by the stitches either. Doctor did a good job.
Told you he looked kind.