"Do I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself. I am vast. I contain multitudes." -Walt Whitman

:malicious user:

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

sea change i
in part, this space exists as a record for my children, so that they may know me better through my opinions and my accounts of events. so that's one reason for the telling of this experience. there are other reasons, i'm sure, reasons that have to do with healing or exorcising, but those reasons keep escaping out the corners. i do know that this one will take time to tell.

there are souvenirs from the experience, evidence, aftershocks. they are there every day. the paperwork sits in a worn folder: scraps of hotel-room pads with names and numbers. photocopies of summons with gross errors in the details.

there is the paradigm shift that has occurred as well. i prefer not to travel. i have lost the desire to visit greece, ireland, and the southwest.

but the most obvious remnants exist across the topography of angel's body. the gills. the zipper.

after an extended long-distance relationship, angel relocated from virginia to new york to be with me. only a week or so after moving, we returned to virginia to collect the dog, and more importantly, to attend mouse's marriage by a justice of the peace. the next day, a sunny june afternoon, we packed up the dog and started back home.

for four years i had driven past the vfw bbq in delaware every other weekend, and imagined how good the fire-grilled chicken must taste, eaten at a picnic table by the highway. but i had always passed the stand after closing time. this time, the last trip this way for a long time, i knew, and the first time i had angel with me during the stand's open hours, we stopped for an early dinner. the dog, angel, and i sat and ate home-cooked chicken in the late summer afternoon, watching the lazy traffic. idyllic. dessert was already in the car: huge chocolate and marshmallow confections called star pies from a virginia bakery that was known for its delicious goods as well as its active employment of learning and developmentally disabled persons. i mention this meal because i still wonder how differently events would have unfolded if we hadn't stopped.

back on the road, we continued north out of delaware into new jersey, taking the turnpike up headed for new york. there had apparently been heavy storms earlier; the air was moist and the road was dotted with puddles. but now, just after 6 at night, the sun was closing on the horizon and the sky was almost cornflower blue.

somewhere around cherry hill, the turnpike dips down into a valley.

as we headed into the valley, the lone car a few hundred yards ahead of us disappeared in a cloud of water spray, and angel said to me, 'he's losing control.' the car reemerged a split second later, spiraling as it continued down the road. already braking, we hit the water as the station wagon came to a halt, straddling the two lanes of the turnpike.

hydroplaning now, we hurtled forward in space as time slowed down. i glimpsed down at the core of the steering wheel and incomplete thoughts about air bags started to surface. i looked over at angel as she pushed herself back in the seat, then back at the side of the station wagon rushing up to us. angel said to me matter-of-factly, 'we're going to hit him.'

and then we did.
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i used to be disgusted. now i try to be amused.
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