Monday, December 29, 2014

i tried a short-cut to heaven, and failed.

mostly i feel stupid. how could i, of all people, get hit in a crosswalk? and i have a good reason for asking. here's my story. many years ago, i drove a thirty year-old Willy's Station Wagon. once, in Berkeley, i'd parked on college ave.finished with whatever i was doing,  i revved her up and pulled out into the street, to discover i had no brakes. the emergency hadn't worked forever, and the old style master cylinders had one cell. if that gave out, you'd nothing. 

symbolically, it had just started to snow, a rarity in these parts. alas, the coming corner stoplight red, students in droves crossing right before me. i don't know what possessed me (maybe a much younger, more agile guardian angel Sydney grabbed the wheel). i swerved to the right, up over the curb, and into a light pole. i'd been travelling slow, but slightly downhill, and i could have sent half a dozen souls to heaven before me.

the moral of this story: i never, never ever assume a car will stop for me, even in a crosswalk with blazing lights. they could turn from the left, they could turn from the right, and not see me. or, if they did see me, THEY MIGHT NOT BE ABLE TO STOP. as i couldn't that time in Berkeley. so how the hell...?

all i can think is, with the power-outage around me, i got a false sense of security from the flashlight i carried, aiming it at the car, which was very far away. ah, not far enough, if a woman is going 35 miles an hour and talking to her kids in the rear-view mirror. for a moment of carelessness, many a life hangs in the  balance. 

of course, now i have to answer that awful question: WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED FROM THIS EXPERIENCE? almost four weeks out from it, i feel like i should have an answer. doctor visits, more x-rays, today's visit with a physical therapist, they've flown by. and i keep thinking of Blanche's line at the end of "streetcar named desire", 'i have always depended on the kindness of strangers.'

turns out, if you're going to have a near-death experience, this is a good town in which to have it. the folks cutting off my clothes, cat-scanning every inch of my body, those bringing food to the bedside, they couldn't have been kinder. (and i re-affirm: this is the city of beautiful nurses.) every body's been sterling. oh, i could bring the wrath of heaven down on a lackadaisical social-worker. but then, perfection is not of this world.

okay, i learned even more clearly than leonard cohen, 'the longer i live, the more i realize i'm not in control.' and i've never had to ask for so much help. 'could you wash clothes, drive me to the market, vacuum the floor?' yes, i've learned to ask for help, i hope more graciously, and to say THANK YOU often and really mean it.

in fact, i'm ashamed to admit it, for the first time i've felt love for my friends. i've never really believed in the item, holding with la rochefoucauld, 'basic to all of us is self-interest.' perhaps this is true day to day, yet in extraordinary circumstances there's something else. and i'm here to tell you, if you have a treasure, it's your friends, rarer than gold.