Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Accident into Reality

I wrote this because I was inspired; it might be a little violent...

She checked her speedometer and wondered the tenth time that morning why she was going so fast. Mindlessly tapping her brakes to bring her down to the speed limit, she stared ahead. Just at this point of her morning commute, the road pointed straight at a vista of some of the most spectacular mountains in the Colorado front range. Some days they took her breath away. Other days, like this one, she barely saw them. Instead she had a mental image of herself in her dirty gold 4-door.

Life had been a series of previous commitments the last few weeks. So much of her day was either routine or dictated that she hadn’t been thinking about how she ought to spend her time, or why she was doing any of these things. Being busy made life something to look forward to; it kept her going. But a hectic schedule was also distracting.

Ahead to her right a lone man dressed in baggy pants, and a white hat matching his long white shirt stepped off the curb towards her. The nearest cars were a block ahead, but she knew no one was behind her either. He would make a casual crossing right after she passed. He advanced slowly, but came so close she thought her mirror might brush him as she passed. At the last minute he lunged ahead of her car onto the pavement and was crushed beneath her wheels.

She slammed on her brakes, maybe making matters worse, and checked her rear-view mirror to see whether the stoplight behind her had released its traffic. All in a moment she had her flashers on and her cell phone out to dial 911. As she talked she got out of the car, grateful the lane was wide enough to leave space for her to kneel beside the man, not flat like you would think, but crumpled in an odd way, behind her car. No medical or emergency training had prepared her, but instinct and good sense took over. She didn’t move his head or neck, instead checking his abdomen for heavy bleeding. The phone held to her ear, she got out the most important information in short pants that startled her. Was she hyperventilating? “Accident, pedestrian.” She gave the cross streets.

The cell phone beeped a warning that its newly charged battery was dying. She really should get that replaced. The first car carefully went past her, and another pulled slowly to a stop about a car-length behind her: a larger SUV driven by a level-headed man in a suit. Jumping down from the higher interior of the vehicle, he left his suit jacket behind on the seat. A 911 operator was telling her to stay calm and to make sure she was not in danger from traffic when her phone alerted her to its death with a cheery chime. Frustrated and with a sore neck, she let the phone drop, freeing her to do more for the man who, she thanked God, was still alive.

It seemed like five trains of thought moved at once. What had happened? She replayed the scene over and over. What should she have done? Could she have known? She saw his face again and again, unbroken unlike the one on the ground at her knees.

She prayed. Mostly it came in an unbroken series of God’s names, or just the repeated cry, “God, God, God!”

Her hands continued to work, assessing her patient even though she didn’t know how to treat him. She looked around for the ambulance that wouldn’t come for several more minutes. That’s when she finally realized someone was helping her. He was asking what had happened.

She was talking, too, trying to share the jumble of facts in her head, and sounding coherent in spite of herself. Concerned for the shock she must be going through as well, the stranger put his hand on her shoulder. He moved to the injured man’s head to do a little first aid she remembered vaguely being taught in swimming lessons more than ten years ago. He checked to make sure his windpipe wasn’t blocked and there was nothing in his mouth on which he might choke. “Do you have any water, cloths, paper towels?” he asked.

She leapt to her feet and back to her car, hands sticky with blood. The door was still ajar, and the car was still running. She turned the key back towards herself and left it in the ignition. Reaching behind the passenger seat, she pulled a mini roll of paper towels off the floor. Then she retrieved her water bottle and hurried back.

“Good,” he said, and began to gently rinse the man’s mouth of his blood. He soaked a paper towel in the fresh water and told her to clean the more minor wounds on his arms and apply pressure if any larger wounds were still releasing blood. She willed him to breathe as she moved, and kept talking to the patient, telling him what she was doing and why, and praying aloud for him.

At last the sound of sirens grew and drew near. The road filled with lights as the barricade of police cruisers arrived. Officers emerged from the car and gently coaxed the good Samaritans back from the scene. An ambulance squealed and honked its way through the intersection, and EMT’s had swung open the doors, lugging bags of gear, before the vehicle even stopped.

A couple officers with notepads interviewed the witnesses for the report. Her hands began to shake first, and then her knees felt like they would give out. She tried to answer their questions. “I was going about 41 miles per hour. I’d just checked, and slowed down. Excuse me.” She sat on the pavement, blood on her skirt, blood on her hands, and her stomach beginning to get queasy at the smell. She stared at the EMT’s lifting the man onto a stretcher. “I saw him, thought he looked like an irresponsible kid who was going to make a break for the crossing right after I passed. He got a head start towards me and then literally… he… dove…” She tried to look at the boy’s face to focus. His eyes were shut, and now that the medical team had cleaned him up, she could see ragged lines of scrapes and dark patches of swollen bruises. And then she cried, the sound pouring out of her like vomit, as though all the ache in her insides could be purged in tears and groaning.

The SUV man’s reassuring hand touched her back. She opened her eyes and realized her hands were too gross to wipe away the tears or cover her stained face. Blinking, she could see the stone in her ring spark through the stains of blood. “Can we get some water,” the officer called. He knelt in front of her. She turned her hand in the sun to see the glitter. As of yet he hadn’t seen her license, didn’t know how old she was, only knew her name. Maybe he should try to call her family. But she hadn’t requested it. Was she telling the truth?

“My name’s Drew,” said the man whose suit was ruined after his rescue attempt. He sat behind her now, and she felt both of his strong hands on her sleeves. His hands were stained from the triage as well. The officer who had interviewed him stood by, noting that the man hadn’t seen the accident, only the aftermath. He said the girl had spunk, and was doing a good job trying to help when he pulled up. “They need to know what happened.”

She nodded. She knew. But hearing the facts, simple, repetitive, helped.

“Here, wash your hands. He took the water bottle the EMT brought over and began pouring it beside her, while he reached for her hands to move them under the slow stream. Her fingers stretched apart, then closed. She felt them stick, and opened them apart again. Eventually the water carried the mess away. Immediately her hands went to her face to brush away the slower tears. While her eyes were covered, she focused on other senses. She heard cars, chirping brakes, engines, the air blowing across her hair as the cars passed. Against her legs the pavement was rough and hard. Behind her she was aware of something softer to lean against, and she realized, gradually, as she opened her eyes and turned her head, that Drew was holding her. Perhaps he thought she might faint.

“I put on my brakes as soon as I saw him dive,” she managed to say, followed by one long, slow breath. “I don’t know if that was good, but it was reflex. I got right out of the car, and dialed 911. He was behind the car a few feet, and curled up in odd angles. Why would he do that?” She turned with her question to her companion. “If he wanted to commit suicide, why not a bigger car? Why not a lot of cars? Why mine? I was just on my way to work.”

Her mind made note that she was late for work and should probably call them. But she didn’t want to. Should she call her mom? What did people do before 911? Were the mountains still there? She looked up to check. Wouldn’t someone just lead her away? Tell her what to do? She was mentally exhausted, making enough life and decisions in five minutes to last her for years.

Exchanging a glance with the officer as he said it, Drew offered to check her car. “Let’s see if there’s much damage.” He stood and lifted her to her feet, then guided her towards her car. The ambulance was just pulling away. Her cell phone remained, lifeless, behind her car. She was vaguely aware that traffic was backed up, being reduced from three lanes to one. “Not too bad,” Drew pointed at the bumper and distracted her from watching the retreating ambulance. Coming around to the front he noticed more dents, and blood. He stooped to look under the car. The officer shone his flashlight. “Maybe need a little more work here. Check the alignment and shocks, and this axel. Do you think it needs towed?” he asked.

The policeman shook his head. No. Both men agreed without a word that she didn’t need to be driving. “Can I see your license?” the officer asked, filling in the date and time, recording her license plate, on his form. She pulled it out of her purse. Her calves still burned like they might stop working, so she sat down on the seat once she handed it to him. Drew walked away, and she leaned towards his leaving, ready to say something if he wasn’t coming back. She hoped the words that would come would be more honest than a thank you. She didn’t want him to go yet, and wasn’t willing to admit that he had the right to get on with his day.

He came back soon with her cell phone. “Battery?” he asked, and tried a smile. She nodded. “Did you say you were on your way to work?” he hinted.

“Yes. I guess I should call in.”

He took off to his SUV. “I’ll get my phone,” he said.

“Hey, you know, we should really move this to the side road up there, stop blocking traffic now,” the policeman took a moment from his report to say.

“Can you drive to just up there?” Drew pointed to the first turn. “I’ll follow you.” Answering the proffered cell phone, he said, “Hang on to it.” She clung to it like a deposit on his promise to follow her. A little after the light behind them turned red, the line of cars thinned enough to let each of them in and back out at the turn. She pulled up beside a peaceful residence with a tree out front and a mailbox. Every house had a mailbox. The mountains were still visible over the roofs of the houses on her left.

To her relief, the recently washed navy blue SUV parked behind her, and she opened the door while she borrowed his phone to call her office. “Everything ok?” he asked once she had scanned the number pad for the off button.

The black and white sedan of the police fleet turned onto their road and did a U-turn to park across the street. “I feel bad leaving them hanging.”

“Where do you work?” he made small talk, trying to set her at ease.

She kept running her hand through her hair, pulling it back from her face. He tried not to stare at the darkening blood stains on her skirt. “At an eye doctor’s office. Should you call in?”

“No,” he waved at the phone still in her possession and wondered when to suggest that she call a friend. She might break down all over again. “I don’t have to report. My schedule isn’t that fixed. If they want me, they’ll call.”

A few more minutes saw the completion of all the police had to do on the scene. He confirmed her home phone and asked if she’d be all right.

“I’m ok. Thanks.”

Drew watched her steadily. He didn’t know her, but he had studied people, and he doubted her. She would be ok. Right now she was ok, depending on what you wanted her to do. She wasn’t going to work. She wasn’t driving. So far she wasn’t calling any friends or family.

Her mind reviewed the scene after the accident. What happened and when. What did she say? What did he say? Was he praying, too, or just her? Did she pray out loud? She remembered him saying “amen” to her prayers. When the ambulance finally arrived, after the police, he’d said “Thank You, God.” She remembered. Things were sharper now than even when they happened. Her world was recovering sense and order. All she wanted was a shower and new clothes, then maybe a good long Jane Austen movie – no explanations, no cries of concern. But maybe she should try to go to work. She’d call after a shower.

“I think I’ll go into shock soon,” she said absently.

“No you don’t,” Drew moved a step closer and interrupted his silent consideration of what should be done to distract her with more conversation. “You live close?”

“What?” her face lifted up like the break of the morning, refreshed and eager. “Yes.” She pointed and told him the nearest major intersection to her home. He noted it was a residential neighborhood with trees and parks, a few apartments between rows of 30 year old homes.

“You can come back for your car later, and I could give you a ride.” He saw her shrink back at the offer, but continued. “Is there someone at home you could call?”

So he had to go. He didn’t even have to stop to help at all. God had allowed the situation to come to her. She couldn’t have very well left. But this man was staying long past the call of duty. His hand prints were on her sleeves. Maybe he was an angel. Though it seemed unfair comparing her need to that of the suicidal young man now at an ER somewhere, she needed an angel. If he was an angel, he wouldn’t mind her asking. If he wasn’t, he’d be flattered or amused. She decided to go for it.

“Me?!” He showed the first real smile since she met him. “No such luck. But I can still give you a ride, or don’t you take lifts from human beings?”

“I don’t want to be a bother. You’ve done so much you didn’t have to. This isn’t your problem. I can call someone.”

“If you want to. But would you take a ride from an angel?” Drew pressed. He wanted to help. Even if she called someone else, he wouldn’t leave her alone until they were here. She would most likely break down again. He might break down. He prayed more urgently.

“Maybe. I mean, I’d feel bad if God sent me an angel to help and I said no. But you have other things to do.”

“What if God sent me? What if this is what God wants me to do?”

Her eyes brightened. “That’s possible.”

“Or you could call whoever ‘someone’ is, and we could drive to the ER to see if we can check our patient’s status.”

“I’m curious, but I think it might be fruitless. All the privacy laws now.” Her voice had changed. It was stronger, and slower. She was less nervous now.

“Do you want to try?”

“I don’t think so.”

Drew accepted her answer and took a few steps toward her car on the sidewalk. “Get your purse, and your keys. Is it locked?”

She checked the door. “Good.”

Once snugly inside his superior-sized SUV, she leaned against her window. He watched the road intently, stealing glances to check on his charge whenever he could. The radio played the Christian CD he had in, and she hummed the tune quietly. She was trying to decide what to do when she went home. Her mom would be borderline hysterical. And someone would have to take care of her and explain everything. They’d probably have to call her dad at work. Or maybe she should call him first.

Still worried she would go into shock, Drew asked some more questions. “After we get close, you’ll have to tell me where to turn. Is someone going to be there? I don’t think you should be alone.”

“It might be harder dealing with the people who are there,” she admitted, “than an empty house. I’m the oldest of six kids, and at least two will be at home. My mom should be there, and she’ll be a – upset.”

“Your dad?” Six kids! Was this a blended family, or was she Mormon?

“At work.”

“Do you need to call him?”

“I thought about it.”

“You can borrow my cell phone again.” He pointed to where it was charging, but went on before she could reach for it. “So where do you go to church?”

“The Baptist church up the road from the accident. South.” Drew could almost imagine her turning a compass to figure out the direction, just like a girl.

“I work at a Christian ministry in DTC,” he volunteered. “We interview, survey, and describe speakers, and help coordinate getting them in for an event. Most churches could do it on their own, but we cut down on the work. And we do reviews and classification of Christian books, too.”

“Turn here,” she pointed. “You’re a match-making service for Christians and ministries, then. What spiritual gifts does that apply?”

Drew did a double take. From prayers that consisted of calling on the generic “God” to asking him whether and which spiritual gifts he used in his job? He took another turn per her direction, and pulled to a stop in between houses. “Here?”

“Until I call my dad.”

“Well, I guess we use administration and discernment. We pray a lot, and study the Bible so that we can be alert if we come across something that might not be orthodox or biblical.”

“Which happens a lot.” It was a statement. She used the rear view mirror to scout her house. “Can I use your phone?”

“Go ahead.” Drew listened to her lead into telling her dad what happened. Twenty-three. Lives at home. Baptist. God-empowered, if what I saw today is an indication. She’d been amazingly calm when in the middle of the emergency. He meant to ask her if she had first aid training.

She used her free hand to massage her neck. “I’m fine. Just a little shaken up. I called work. They’ll be ok for a while. Yes. I need to change. Where? I’m right outside home, but wanted to call you before I went in. Do you know if Mom’s home?”

To God be all glory.


åslaug said...

Was this all? I want more. Maybe I can't have it.

I liked it. It was violent, yes. But you did a good job.
Thank you

Soli Deo Gloria =)

Lisa of Longbourn said...

Yep, sorry. That's all I got.
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn