Archive for February, 2017

Last Night

Here’s a story I wrote about the last time I was hit by a car

Last Night

Life happens in fractions of seconds. One could dwell on the decisions one makes that don’t put one in a position of danger, but the real things that could prevent it are myriad, so myriad it’s a wonder that it even happens. Had I decided that I needed the new Cowboy Curtis cd, or had I decided that I should say hey to Adam Sveck, I most certainly would not have been in that crosswalk. Those decisions had already been made, though, long before I was in any danger. Had Kat decided that she needed to smoke another cigarette, had the hand not been flashing and been solid when we got to the intersection, had I dropped my wallet, had someone separated us in the crowd causing us to need a half second to hold hands once more, that may have been all it took. Of course, none of those things occurred, so at 12:50 or so on September the 16th, Kat and I were in that crosswalk when someone in a vehicle that I will never rightly remember until I read the police report turned left trying to beat the light hit us.

I can’t tell you quite what I did, but I ended up rolling off the hood of the vehicle in some way or another. Standing on the left, the vehicle struck me first, and I most certainly rolled, ending up on pavement on my left shoulder and leg, but springing to my feet almost instantaneously. I do not remember falling, or at any point ever being on the ground, and maybe I never was. It’s tough for me to say for sure. All I remember is shouting “Oh my God” as the vehicle bowled me over, and looking to my left for Kat and not seeing her. My left leg and left shoulder still hurt, and I could have fell on the ground on them, but I could have also just made contact with the vehicle at those points as well. As I was rolling over, the cop who already sat at the intersection had already switched on his lights, so that by the time I was back down, he was already pulling around to get the vehicle, which couldn’t have gone more than thirty feet before it stopped.

Kat sat on the ground, holding her head, and there was blood on her face. It all felt like “Last Kiss” for a minute, horribly and suddenly, and I could hear Eddie Vedder, but a girl in a pink floral dress came over. “Are you okay?” That was not directed at me, as I was on my feet, looking like nothing much had happened. Again, I don’t recall if I ever made it to the ground or if I just stayed on my feet the entire time, but I felt fine. As fine as someone who’d just rolled off the car could feel. Kat, on the other hand, looked like she could use some medical attention. The girl went right over to her as I pulled out my cell phone to call 911.

Looking back, I’m sure it was somewhat ridiculous to be calling 911 when there was already a police car on the scene. Surely, the officer in the vehicle had signaled for assistance. Still, I couldn’t help it. I didn’t know unless I called them, which is a respectable impulse if you ask me. There wasn’t much to remember of the conversation. I told the woman dispatcher that I’d been hit by a car and that I was standing in the intersection of Cedar and Riverside Aves, and soon enough she told me emergency vehicles already had been called. I flipped my phone closed and sat next to Kat on the curb of Cedar.

Some seconds removed from all of it, the wound on Kat’s head didn’t look too bad. Certainly a lot of blood on her head and her jacket, but it did not appear to be bleeding profusely or anything such as that. I put an arm around her as the girl in the floral dress saw to finding Kat a towel or something to staunch the bleeding, and I looked to my right where the cops and the pulled over car parked blocking off southbound Cedar. Time stretched in ways that I’ve never experienced, and suddenly the minute outside of the 400 Bar seemed longer than the preceding four hours we’d just spent inside watching Seymour Saves The World, Duplomacy, and Cowboy Curtis. The two of us just shook there on the curb of Cedar Ave for some time, though it’s hard for me to attach any definite value to that time.

Officer Appledown came over and talked with Kat first. In fact, everyone I talked with that night seemed surprised that the car hit me first, and yet there I sat on the curb, nothing appearing to be out of place. Then again, I didn’t have the head wound, so I came in second on the priority list. I don’t remember the order of the questions, and I don’t remember the questions much at all at this point, even just a day removed. What I remember? Hard to say. My mind busily fills in the gaps as I write to try and make a complete story, even though I know there will always be holes. That’s the way it is with nonfiction though. It’s not necessarily how it happened, it’s how the consensus of individuals remember it. Eventually, Officer Appledown got around to taking down my information. I informed him of the changed address and he scribbled it down on his notepad as the ambulance pulled up.

By now, Cedar filled not with traffic but with emergency vehicles. Somewhere along the way, a couple more cop cars had shown up to assist Officer Appledown in his duties. The ambulance pulled right up to the two of us and a couple EMTs hopped out of the doors.

Again they asked Kat a lot of questions, and again I don’t remember much of it. I held her until I felt like my arm would be in the way. Officer Appledown approached me at that time, giving me a card with information such as the case number and what number to call to get a copy of the police report, though I do not remember which number he pointed to in the list of twenty or so. I nodded and spoke when I needed to, went over to the ambulance that they were loading Kat into. “Do you want me to come with?”

One of the EMTs looked at me. “Are you sure you don’t want to drive?” I shrugged. “Did you drive over here?”

“Yeah.”

“Have you been drinking tonight?”

“No.”

“Why don’t you just drive over, there’s free street parking at this time of night. It’s at 8th and Chicago.”

“Yeah, I guess that makes sense.”

“You know, that way you don’t have to get a cab.”

I nodded and looked at Kat one more time, but she wasn’t facing me, so I just backed away as they closed the doors of the ambulance. Walking toward my car now, since I had no reason to stick around, I flipped my phone open and closed it just as quickly. Who would I call? What would I even say? “Hey, guess what, I just got hit by a car.” I didn’t have anything to say, I just wanted someone to talk with, but there was no one to talk with, so I walked down Riverside silently and thought about the Empty Bottle.

The Empty Bottle is a club in Chicago. On Valentine’s Day, 2003, the bassist of Chin Up, Chin Up died when he was struck by a drunk driver. I never doubted for a minute how something like that could occur, but like so many experiences, it had shifted from plausible to probable in my mind. You never think anything is going to happen to you, or you just do your best to shut it out. Especially if you live in a city. But eventually something will catch up with you. In my case, it caught up at about twenty miles an hour.

I knew my leg and shoulder would be sore for a while by the time I got to my car. They both worked, worked fine, but they didn’t much like the. Groaning, I sat in the car for a second and hit the steering wheel with my right fist. Then I turned the ignition, bringing “Return” by OK Go to life, and I set about to get down to 8th and Chicago.

Underestimating the availability of parking spaces by the Hennepin County Medical Center, I pulled into a space between 6th and 7th on Chicago. Of course, I didn’t know where the entrance to the Emergency Room was, either, and I figured I could use the workout, so it seemed no matter at the time. Once again, my leg and shoulder ached, but they did nothing more, so I did not press the point. I walked around the HCMC for some time until I encountered a nurse.

“Where’s the entrance for the Emergency Room?”

She stopped munching on a sandwich and pointed toward the corner. “It’s on the other side. We’re kinda on the back side of the hospital.”

“Thanks.” I continued to work my away around the hospital with a group of men who’d also shown up to see one of their friends. The entrance for the Emergency Room sat on the corner of 8th and Chicago, where the EMT told me to go. I shook my head and made my way toward the sliding doors only to find them not opening. I went to go try another set, but one of the guys in the group kept motioning for me to come over. “C’mon, man.” I was in no rush, though, as I made my way back to the doors and inside HCMC for the first time.
What can I say about hospital waiting rooms that you don’t already know? Surely everyone’s been in a hospital waiting room. There’s always the television mounted on one of those brackets from the ceiling playing a rerun of “Law And Order” on TNT, several people in various stages of attentiveness, ranging from the pensive mother to the full out asleep man, and lots of copies of Time, Newsweek, and Sports Illustrated from two months ago. A red line in front of the Triage desk implored all visitors to wait behind it until called forward. Since there was no one in line, I walked up to the woman behind the desk. “I’m looking for someone who was brought here.”

“Go talk to Security and they’ll get you a pass.”

“Alright.” I turned and looked where she had pointed, the security station directly behind me. Three men currently stood over by the counter, trying to get passes to see their friend. I queued behind them and waited to speak with the security guard.

“I’m here to see Katherine Andersen.”

“Kathy?”

“A-N-D-E-R-S-E-N,” I spelled it out for him to try and speed things up.

“Hold on just one minute.” The security guard typed away at the computer in front of him. Behind me, two girls dragged a lanky young man in with an arm over each shoulder. One of the girls shouted toward the triage desk.

“You’ve gotta help him! He’s oding!” Both of them cried as they talked in chopped sentences. The nurse looked up and another rolled out a stretcher from behind the desk. Blood trickled down the young man’s nose, and his hair glued itself to his forehead. He didn’t have on any shoes and blood had dripped on, but did not cover any articles of clothing fully. He looked pallid as they laid him down on a stretcher and shook somewhat. I shuddered and looked away from him as the security guard got my attention again.

“Here’s your pass. Go to room A-3. Go through those doors and take your first left. At the end of the hall make a right, and the room will be on your right when you get to the A section.”

“Thanks,” I stuck to sticker to my Captain America shirt. I walked by the kid on the stretcher and listened once more to the hysterical girls who accompanied the oding kid.

“Don’t call his parents. Please don’t call his parents.”

“We’re not going to call his parents.” People will believe anything in the right condition. I waited for the doors to open and made my way into the bowels of HCMC. I’ve been to a lot of hospitals of late, and I’m familiar with their layouts, and this was no different, with its oddly named corridors and arrows pointing every which way to tell one how to get from point A to point B, but I stuck to the security guard’s instructions and wended my way to A-3, where Kat lay on a stretcher.

For her part, she looked like an extra in a George Romero film. I could tell now she had received only a superficial wound, but blood ran down her right check and onto her chin and neck. That blood by now had dried, along with the blood on her denim jacket and her jeans. The hospital had hooked her up to measure her pulse and blood pressure, but had nothing more in the room. Kat fidgeted on the hospital bed. I smiled. “Hey.”

“Hey.”

“That was fast.”

“Not that many people out right now.” I put a hand on her knee.

“I’m sorry.”

“For what?”

“You can go home, and I can just get a cab.”

“No.”

“You should have stopped at home and got something to read.”
“It’s alright. I can wait. How are you feeling?”
“I really am fine. I should have told them I didn’t need an ambulance.” 
I shrugged. “Better safe than sorry.”
“I know. I’m sorry.”
I took her hand in mine and squeezed it. “I want to be here. I just want to know that you’re okay.” I pulled up a chair and sat down next to Kat as we compared notes on the night. I kept waiting for her to say, “You sure do know how to show a girl a good time, Dr. Jones,” but that never came. I was thanked for making a most memorable date. It was a long time before anyone came by room A-3, but in the Emergency Room, that’s usually a good sign. Three hours, three rooms, two doctors, one nurse, one tetanus shot, and one prescription of Tylenol 3 later, we were back on our way out the door and onto 8th Street. It sprinkled as we walked back to my car.
“Thanks for staying.”
“It was the least I could do.” I thought about everything that could have happened in those fractions of seconds, but I found it useless to dwell on what could have been because what had happened happened. I smiled as we approached my car. I know the night could have been worse, and I was thankful that we only had bumps and bruises. Last night could have been our last night, after all. I tried to peer around the corner as I turned onto Washington, but you can only see so far ahead.

 
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