Have you ever had an unfounded fear, one that makes you say, "this is how I am going to die?"
Sure, it is a morose thought, a thought I shove down inside and try to ignore.
I am talking about car accidents. I read the Highway Patrol reports and local news about "TCs" or traffic collisions, I notice the burnt rubber marks across lanes and the crosses decorating my winding road. I go through days where I refuse to drive myself anywhere, the fear gripping me and crippling me. I get convinced, especially with my horrid vision problems, that I will meet my demise by a horrifying car accident. When I am okay with driving myself,I am hyper vigilant and notice cars too close behind me, on their cell phone, weaving, or looking tired. It's nerve wracking.
It wasn't so bad many years ago; when I finally got my license and car at age 22, I could not stay put! I once drove over an hour to the ocean just to say I had been to the beach, and I took weekly trips to the ethnic enclaves of Los Angeles, or the bustling clubs of Hollywood just because I could. I would sacrifice my measly food budget, subsiding off of ramen and cereal just to have gas money, to be a college nomad in the concrete jungle of California.
One day, I was on the Ten Freeway and there was a semi truck to my left and one to the right and they both tried to merge into my lane with me in it. I slammed down on the accelerator and watched them nearly hit one another, just inches from my tail lights. I pulled off the freeway and sat there and cried. A panic attack overcame me as I realized I was not invincible, that cars were deadly weapons.
A year later, I went to run errands and then meet my fiancé for coffee. We had taken separate cars, and I had finished my coffee too quickly and was ready to head home and make sure our puppy hadn't eaten the couch or my shoes or the cat. My fiancé stayed to finish his coffee and off I went.
I was driving up the boulevard in my nearly new car when it happened. To my right was a street that bisected the boulevard, a stop sign was there for them to stop since the boulevard was through traffic with a high speed limit. Approaching the stop sign was an older maroon car that sure didn't look like it was going to stop. I didn't know what to do. I was going 45mph and he sure looked to be doing the same, but I couldn't slam on my breaks at 45 with traffic behind me. So I sped up. I remember crossing into the opposing lane, hoping no one would hit me head on, hoping the guy would stop. He didn't.
I didn't hear a sound when he hit me on the passenger side. I don't know if I screamed. All I know is I was propelled far into opposing traffic. I knew that all sound had stopped and time had slowed. I slowly pushed the brakes an nothing happened. I tried to jerk the wheel away from oncoming traffic but noting happened. I slowly spun out of control for what seemed like hours, silently whirling out of control. I was in a panic, my car would not work at all, like that nightmare where your legs won't run but worse. Whatever happened, I could not stop it.
I spun into a driveway where my car's momentum slowed and stopped. I numbly jumped out of the car, the airbag not even deployed but my entire passenger side crumpled. I saw the maroon car and said, "ambulance, call an ambulance that f@cker hit me", except I was crying and shaking furiously, stuttering and pacing in circles. I didn't realize the maroon car was the f@cker for a moment. When I finally did, I wanted to scream, cuss him out, strangle him and kick him in the nuts for not stopping and actually hitting me. But all I could muster were choked sobs and crazy lady muttering. I couldn't even think straight to give him my name and insurance information.
I don't know if an ambulance came or not. I was so shaken up, all I remember is calling my fiancé and sobbing,"accident. Hurry" as my stupid cell lost reception. He supposedly drove well over the speed limit, not sure if I were dead or alive. I don't recall getting in his car. I don't recall speaking to the police. It all went kind of blank.
I ended up un-injured, my car completely totaled. Therefore, it seemed to be a happy ending but it has marred me for life. I now know how quickly things can happen, how if even the slightest thing changed, I could have been killed. How it could happen again. In a split of a second, the last sound you might ever hear would be the grinding of metal or the odd silence of tragedy.