On Being of Two Minds

The CarThere must have been a split second between the moment I realized I was going to be in a major collision, and the moment I actually was in a major collision. Because I remember I was screaming before the cars hit.

And I went on screaming when I heard the unmistakable sound of two cars colliding. The air bag deployed, and I was screaming. It started to deflate, and I was still screaming.

And then there was this other person, Alex 2, who was looking at the screamer, Alex 1, and wondering why the hell he was screaming like that. Alex 2 tried to make Alex 1 stop screaming, and when it didn’t work, he turned his attention to the task at hand, which was getting out of the car. He vaguely felt we should get out as quickly as possible, lest it blow up or something. He started to ponder the likelihood of that, and shoved that thought aside.

Alex 1 continued screaming.

Alex 2 tried to open the driver’s side door. He had a “duh” moment when he realized that the outside of that particular door was probably crumpled up like a ball of foil. He figured we’d have to go out the passenger side.

Alex 1 went on screaming.

Alex 2 undid the seat belt and pulled it aside, and noted that the windshield was bizarrely still leaning against its frame, but had shifted four inches to the left. Through the gap this opened, Alex 2 could see smoke from the airbags escaping. He idly wondered whether he had known previously that airbags smoked. He wondered why the passenger-side airbag deployed if there was no-one in that seat. He dismissed that thought as absurd. He remembered a commercial he had seen on TV with people who credited airbags with saving their lives, wearing the airbags as silly bow ties or hats or scarves. He wondered if he could get the airbag and keep it as a memento. He realized he didn’t know how to detach it, and it was probably still hot, and at any rate he had other problems at the moment and this one would have to be set aside.

All this while, Alex 1 was still screaming.

Alex 2 reached across and opened the passenger door, and slid across the passenger seat. He firmly grasped Alex 1 by the scruff of the consciousness and told him to shut the hell up as there were people outside the car and we were about to get out.

Alex 1 stopped screaming, but unwillingly. He sulked.

Alex 2 dragged us out of the car. He turned around and saw the reading book and appointment book on the floor in front of the passenger’s seat and began to reach for them, but then saw that one of our shoes was stuck over by the driver’s seat, and grabbed it instead. (Neither Alex remembers losing the shoe, or putting it back on.)

Alex 1, sore at having been told to stop screaming, retaliated by beginning to hyperventilate.

Alex 2, having accomplished the task of safely extricating us from the car, shifted out of get-it-done mode, saw the big picture, and joined Alex 1 in hyperventilating. And we were as one again.

People were walking around outside the car asking if I was alright and calling 911. They told me to sit down but I didn’t like sitting on the only thing sit-on-able at the time, which was the passenger seat of my own car. I asked them if it was okay if I leaned instead. One man told me to take slow, deep breaths. I tried to.

I got my phone out to call my doctor’s office to tell them I wasn’t going to make my appointment (that’s where I was headed when my car and the other car tried to be in the same place at the same time). At that point the noise in the back of my mind congealed into the horn blaring. I tried to get away from the noise but felt it necessary to lean against the car, as I had told the people there that I would. I leaned against the rear fender, as far as I could get from the horn and still lean. I didn’t have the number, so I put the phone back in my pocket and made a mental note to program in the number first chance.

After that the police showed up, and then the paramedics, and time became much less squishy. I talked to police, was checked out by the paramedics, and finally was driven home in the back of a squad car by a very friendly and helpful police officer. I got into the house, petted the dog, and dug out my doctor’s phone number.

As it turns out, the appointment wasn’t for that day after all, but a week later.

Copyright © 2012 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.

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