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“Rollin’ like a big shot”
As glass explodes over top of my head a million alarms go off in my mind, blocking out everything. Nothing special like my life flashing before my eyes is happening. I am just blank; no sight, no feeling of the car or its jerk, and no emotions. Quick as lightning and clammy, yet hard, a hand of despair grabs me by the throat and holds tight. I can’t believe that this afternoon started just like any other.
I’m in a rush. Change into clothes for soccer practice, grab socks, fill two Gatorade bottles with water, put in my contacts, make sure everything is in my soccer bag, and run out to the car. Of course it is not that easy today, my big sister, Alycia, is driving me. If that is not enough to slow me down Cashus, her perfectly wonderful but grouchy today, two year old god son, is coming also.
“Yaya,” Cashus gets Alycia’s attention by saying his nickname for her, “we goin’ ta da playgwound!”
“Yes, we are little man. Now let’s put your shoes on.” Alycia replies
He loves his shoes; they are equivalent to a “blankie” for him. I think because they are the only things that are always with him no matter where he is, if it is his grandparent’s house, his dad’s apartment, his mom’s house, or my house. All toddlers need that “security blanket” and this resilient baby is no exception.
“Yaya, carry me!” Cashus orders as we rush to the car.
“Hurry, monkey!” she deflects; properly distracting him from the previous demand.
“I wanna stay whish Donna!”
‘Oh no, you have got to be kidding me! He wants to stay here with my mom after he took so long to get ready?’ I think to myself.
“Ok you can stay with Donna.” She pronounces, picking him up and carrying him back to my mom. She walks up the two steps to get to the door and reaches for the knob. Just then, an annoying little voice pleads, “No! No! Yaya, I wanna’ go ta da playgwound whish you!” Exasperated I look to Alycia and she consents for what I know is the last time.
Finally, we are settled into the car and on the road. I hurry and get my cleats and shingaurds on before we even get off the ramp to the highway. We fall into sync; Alycia is controlling the radio which doesn’t bother me and we sing along with all different types of music as they echo in the car. We hit traffic but I have all but given up on the idea of being on time for soccer practice.
Traffic is stopped, and the interstate is transformed into a parking lot but the music is good and we are all smiling. As glass explodes over top of my head a million alarms go off in my mind, blocking out everything. Nothing is happening, yet everything is happening. I must be blacked out. I have the opposite of tunnel vision, and the middle of my site is blocked by black and blue while I can still see out of the corners of my eyes. No words can properly describe the feeling of when a split second plunges my normal world into the unknown depths of a black sea. Everything is not in slow motion like the movies but rather moves faster than normal and I can’t see what is happening. In this moment I know that no matter what the injuries I have or don’t have, my life is forever changed.
Breathless and somewhat light headed I follow my sister’s quick order, “Get Cashus!” ‘Oh no. Cashus, baby, be alright!’ I plead with him in my head as I turn around to see a perfectly intact but thoroughly confused baby boy. ‘Oh God, thanks!’ With surprising strength I push open my smashed door and then pry open his even more crushed door. As I unbuckle him from his car seat everything works smoothly, and I quickly have him wrapped in my arms.
I am shaking, I can’t even call it trembling, it is down-right shaking. This fact terrifies me as I stand on the side of the road next to my now compact car and sister, who is sobbing and clutching Cashus. “Call Mom.” She quietly orders while handing me the phone. ‘What is Mom’s number? Are you kidding me? What in the world is Mom’s number?’ I silently scream in my head. I have always wondered that if I was in an emergency situation would I remember a phone number, apparently the answer to that question is no. My fingers aren’t working; the shaking of my hands is making the simple task of dialing those seven numbers impossible. As I become more aggravated and scared Alycia begins to exude an aura of calmness, well at least calm when compared to me. So, I hand over the phone and she quickly dials the seven simple numbers.
Now I am in deep thought. ‘We are all okay.’ I plead with myself to get a grip. I sit down on a steel blockade just like every other blockade in the middle of every other highway. Up close the barrier looks a lot different than the view from a zooming car. On further inspection I find that they are not only ugly but also bulky, cold, and hard. From a distance they always looked aerodynamic and slender.
I feel like we are stuck here forever, permanently doomed to live this horrible moment for the rest of eternity. The polite man that was in the giant SUV that managed to compact the front of our car and only get a dented bumper offers to let Cashus play with some of his son’s games. The son is unjostled and stares on at the freak show; two sisters crying and shaking on the side of the road. Although grateful, Alycia refuses the offer, at the moment unwilling to let go of the eerily quiet Cashus. There is a kind thirty-year-old lady who witnessed the accident still hanging around and throwing us nervous glances. She is having no avail trying to help us or the Mexican man that crawled out of the window of his white pickup truck directly behind us. Realizing that she has done all she can do she sends one last worried look our way, says she is sorry but has to go, and I bitterly notice that she leaves in her perfectly intact car.
Alycia calls Isaiah, her best friend and the person that lived with my family for a year. After a long conversation that involves a lot of crying, she hands the phone to me. “Isaiah!” I gush, immediately relieved to hear his voice, “We got in a car crash!” I stupidly inform while tears chase each other down my cheeks. This simple fact begins to set in as I say it for the first time.
“I know, Sam” he soothes, “Everything is going to be ok.”
“But it is so scary and I am shaking a lot!” I protest, “And everybody is staring at us!” I pronounce with a note of indignation.
“Don’t worry about them, Sam.” He says while trying to hide a chuckle at my childish annoyance. “You are alright.”
“Okay.” I accede, not willing to believe him because it is just an impossible thought to me but knowing he is right.
“I have to go now but I will talk to you later.” He promises me, reinforcing the idea that I will live through this.
“Bye,” I hang up the phone trying to smile or take comfort in something.
‘Praise the Lord!’ I exhale as my mom walks up with tears glistening in her eyes. Alycia, Cashus, and I all receive the best hug physically possible, the hug of Mom when something goes wrong. The arrival of my mom allows me to take a much needed deep breath. Alycia starts to grab stuff from her car and hands me Cashus. Finally, I get him to start talking. “Sam…”
“So da big white truck hit de… and de pwetty blue one?” (We were in the pretty blue one.)
“The big white truck hit the little white truck and then the little white truck hit the pretty blue one, and the pretty blue one hit the big black car.” I explained bitterly laughing to myself about the irony of me and two-year-old Cashus breaking down this seemingly catastrophic event into simple straightforward logic.
“Ohh, so de big truck hit de wittle truck and de wittle truck hit de pwetty blue one?” He double-checks.
“That is right, monkey.”
All this talk of “da big white truck” makes me look over at its driver. He is leaning up against the steel barricade in as close to the fetal position as he can get while still standing. Both of his hands are covering his face and when he looks through his fingers terror dominates his facial expression. I automatically understand why, his terror must be worse than mine. He caused this four car pileup on I-71. He didn’t press the breaks of his box truck and hit the not so “wittle” white pickup truck with so much force that it not only crushed into my car but sent us flying forward ten yards into the SUV in the front. Although I want to be mad at him the only emotion I can summon is pity. I will be able to move on blameless but I know that sadly he will always feel a surge of guilt when he looks back on this fateful day.
As we start to gather our stuff to leave Alycia realizes that her paycheck is in the now almost nonexistent trunk of the car. She complains that she doesn’t think she will be able to find it. Despite her disbelief she reaches into the trunk without even having to open it. I worry about her cutting her hand on some glass seeing as the back windshield is completely shattered. Despite my qualms, on the first try she smilingly pulls out her paycheck and triumphantly declares, “Yeah Buddy, rollin’ like a big shot!” Shockingly, we all laugh and she effectively if not purposefully, breaks the thick layer of tension around us. “Yeah Buddy, rollin’ like a big shot!”