It was rush hour on 495. The first car cut across traffic toward the exit lane, where traffic was not moving. It went from about 75 mph to a complete stop. It smashed into a second car, which had been slowing down. The second car slammed into the back of a third car, causing it to spin around, and then crashed into the third car’s driver’s side. The third car hit a forth.
A horn was blaring. The first driver’s face was jammed against the steering wheel of his car. His leg was sticking out of the window. He didn’t make it. The second driver was carried away on a gurney. The third driver crawled out through the passenger side of his car and sent me this text:
Totaled. I’m fine.
I stared at it. But it didn’t make sense. A car was hit. It looked like my husband’s car.
“Mama!” sang a voice from my backseat. “Can we go? Can we go? Can we go?” TWO and I were in the parking lot of ONE’s elementary school.
“One second, baby.” I zoomed in on the photo. “I think daddy was in a car accident.” For some reason I didn’t understand what I was looking at.
TWO started to cry. “Is daddy okay?”
“Don’t cry, Sweetie,” I said. “He’s fine, he’s…” It occurred to me that I probably shouldn’t have said anything to her. “Let me just send him a text…”
I couldn’t stop staring at the driver’s side door. What was I missing? I called him. It went right to voicemail. TWO was still crying. I could hear my heart, crashing against itself in my ears like waves before a storm. It was a sound I’d heard before, but I couldn’t remember when.
Finally my thoughts swam toward the front of my brain. Everything got bright. The red truck had slammed right into the driver’s side. The door was crushed into where he had been sitting. It should’ve pinned him in. Time caught up. How did he get out? How was he okay?
I started to cry.
At that moment he called and said he was fine. He told me about the other drivers, and how the door of his car had caved in, yet the metal stopped just before touching his leg. How stunned he was to have walked away without even a scratch. Miracles, angels, God. And then he had to go.
I’d woken up stressed that day, having somehow overbooked myself with things to do for the school, our church, my book, and the mother’s day show. But by the time we walked into TWO’s preschool I’d cancelled it all, wondering how it had ever seemed important. I didn’t know what the day would look like now, but I didn’t care. All I could think of was getting to him on 495.
But then he called again, letting me know that a co-worker, who’d been stuck in the accident traffic, stopped and picked him up. He was going to the office to take care of things and would call when he was ready to leave. I felt strangely let down. And jumpy. Even though I knew he was okay, we’d had enough scary separations over the years to know that I wouldn’t be okay until I saw him again.
I started to pace. All the free time in the world ahead of me, yet even though I’d ached for it that morning, I didn’t want it. A little thought started running through my mind. Something a friend had planted in my head earlier that week. I clung to it while I paced.
…how slowly your brain understands something bad
…panic pushed down by a plan, no matter how irrational
…knowing he’s okay
…remembering his face, his arms, his smell
…God answering your morning prayer of bringing everyone in the family home together at the end of the day
…the feeling that washes over you when you receive this text: Are you around? I think I’m probably going to come home. Do u wanna pick me up?
I cried most of the way to his office, vacillating between an emotional pit and the relief I was longing for. The relief that always came after moments like these. The relief that flooded when I heard his keys in our apartment door after he’d gotten away from the men who tried to mug us. Relief that made me laugh as I exited the New York train on 9/12 and saw him waiting for me. Relief as the girls screamed his name just hours after the Discovery hostage situation ended and he was home.
Relief that meant that we were together again.
Relief that reminded me just how much I loved him.
I knew that someday we’d be separated for good. That one of us would get that call, or sit by the other’s side and watch them go. But as I caught sight of him coming toward my car, leaning into the wind, perfect and in one piece, I thanked God that once again that day wasn’t today.
© 2012 CEK. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
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