Emma Carmichael and her cousin Molly were hit by a truck this summer. Their bodies and minds are slowly healing.
I talked about it in the weeks following, as friends came to visit. “Want to hear what I remember?” I’d ask. I was prepared, even if my audience was not. For a while, I found comfort in re-telling it, and even in seeing their horror. I couldn’t remember much, but I could tell you about where we’d been standing, and just how it looked when my vision mercifully faded black as I went into shock. Telling it, more than the rods protruding from my body — four down my left leg, one in each hip — was proof that it had happened. It all felt like a dream, so the story mattered.
While not nearly as traumatic as what happened to Carmichael and her cousin, I have been involved in a pair of, uh, happenings over the past two years, a car accident and a very slow-moving non-accident that has completely reshaped my life.1 But I identify completely with her about the weird thing that happens when you tell people news like that. “I was hit by a truck and almost died.” “I was on my bike and got hit by a car and now I have 9 stitches on my thumb.” “You haven’t heard, but _________ and _______ are ________.” It stops the conversation dead and you can see the other person completely reform themselves around your news. One sentence changes them and it happens right in front of you. It’s a powerful ability, to make someone feel so bad so quickly.
But we were so lucky, I’ve said again and again. I know it’s true, and also that it’s a hollow line for a moment of chance I’m unable to make sense of.
My bike accident was not my fault. The driver ran a red light and hit me.1 The thumb on my dominant hand got sliced up, it was difficult to work for a couple weeks, I have thousands of dollars in medical bills, my hand still hurts more than a month and a half later, and the doctor who took my stitches out casually mentioned that it would take “6 to 9 months” before I would know if I’d get full, normal feeling back in my thumb (which means that I might not have a normal-feeling thumb again). I should be super pissed at the driver (it was a fucking Uber, of course) and really frustrated about the whole thing. But I just can’t work up any negative emotion about it at all. The only thing I feel is really really lucky. It could have been so much worse…six inches to the left and maybe I’d be unable to type this.
Yeah, sorry, I’m not going to tell you what this is. It’s not that tough to guess if you’ve been paying attention.↩
I still blame myself for it. A little. If I hadn’t been in such a hurry and distracted from researching health insurance options for my kids (health insurance “options” for the self-employed in NYC are maddening!), I would have been paying more attention, and it wouldn’t have happened. That’s the deal with biking in NYC: the second you stop paying proper attention to everything around you, you’re at risk.↩