May 16, 2007


Back in Ma Guth's home state tonight, surrounded by the complete quiet of the Middle of Nowhere. I'm surrounded by green, thriving things, currently in the room where my great-grandmother taught me to sew, though it has long since been repurposed into an office. Where a brown plaid wingback chair used to sit facing west, I sit in a modern office chair facing east. The curtains are the same. The same stillness hangs on everything that always did, though now it's familiar and ancient and connective where it used drive me to fidget.

But this afternoon, oh this afternoon, I need to go here.

I was driving here, and witnessed a horrible accident on the highway. It was right there, suddenly everyone was alive, then this truck and this car were in a ball and there was gasoline everywhere. Then I realized there were bodyparts everywhere in the gasoline. All of them were dead, all in pieces. Just giant hunks of bloody meat on the asphalt. Nothing to save, nothing to grab, just pieces. Heads, bloody hair still attached to skin, a leg, a skinned mess of organs and tissue.

I'm not even doing this justice. There was so much blood and everything was so quiet that I could only hear my heart thudding in my ears and everything felt so still that you could almost feel the confusion of the being-animation that moments ago inhabited a body. And then, everything was eerie and still and almost empty and emergency vehicles came and couldn't do much of anything either.

To the side of the road, I noticed two handmade signs nailed to trees beside this scene. One read Jesus Saves, the other Trust Jesus, which made me sort of laugh for a second, mostly because they seemed so random.

Much later as I was free to go, I spoke on my cell in a daze. I mean, I of all people understand death is part of life and so it goes, so it wasn't about death or seeing a body or bodyparts. It was more about the quickness, the you-were-just-here-a-moment-ago-and-now-you're-a-pile-of-useless-tissue-and-there-is-nothing-anyone-can-do-to-save-your-life feeling that kind of took my breath away a little.

The other end of my cell phone expressed relief and amazement at how easily it could have been my car and how it could have been me in pieces on the highway. But that didn't seem right, either. Whoever the five of them were, they were somebody's (insert title indicating the nature of my relationship to you). Someone's friend, someone's child, maybe someone's parent, someone's one-that-got-away, maybe the love of somebody's life, maybe the source of strength or comfort or laughs or support or mayhem. Whatever. They were all just dead, just like that, right there.

I eventually pulled over at a rest area, feeling like I'd been holding my breath for longer than I should and starting to feel my shoulders and arms tighten to give way to soreness from flinching (wimp), and watched a little brown bird peck at a pine cone. I watched and thought I'd like to roll the biggest pine cone I could find in peanut butter and birdseed for the bird but ate dried apricots instead and pressed my fingers hard on my eyelids when a finally took a deep breath and welled-up over people I didn't know who died horribly, even if mercifully fast. Still.


Sizzle said...

woah. what a thing to witness! i'd need to shed tears too. life sure can change quickly, can't it?

Leah said...

Yeah, your text message didn't quite paint the same picture. So glad that you are safe and sound and in an office. Seriously considering never letting you leave Chicago again.

Leen said...

Most definitely glad it wasn't you and kind of cool that you were able to witness such a catastrophic scene though unfortunate for those involved.

"jew" "girl" said...

so devesating. I can't believe the severity of the accident and how luck you are to have escaped it by just seconds.

life really is a glimpse.