Going exactly 80 mph on the southbound Interstate 5 the other day, I was on my way home from work when I had the most unique experience of revelation and action occurring simultaneously. It wasn’t one of the garden-variety rush-hour thoughts – driving is really the most honest form of self-expression; bumper stickers are only a slight step above personalized license plates; maybe I’ll start using books on tape
– that waft through my head on a daily basis and remain unrealized, unactualized.
The other day, the formula of revelation was broken down into its components at the same exact second I decided to act on the epiphany.
Had I time to think about it, I probably would’ve been overwhelmed by the immediate power I’d granted myself.
A moving van was behind me at the time, one of the models from the 1970s with the high grill that almost looks like an 18-wheeler. Once, the truck was white, but freeway years had given it an ashy dusting. It was a pretty big truck.
Before I was sure of what I was doing, I fixed the rearview mirror just a little tighter, unfastened my seatbelt and turned the radio down. Near Via De La Valle, close to where the turf meets the surf, near the bottom of the massive hill, I slammed on the brakes of the Honda as hard as I could. The noise of the tires – not the impact – was the last I heard.
Since the truck was about eight feet behind me and also going 80 mph, you can tell how long it took to smash through the back of the car and drive me through the windshield of my car. The news said I flew 60 feet, which is pretty far considering trains usually splatter people over about 300 feet. The crash crippled traffic for hours, commuters furious and out of their cars making small talk on the quiet freeway.
At the hospital, I was lost in a forest of tubes, with all sorts of sheets covering the unnatural – and rather ghastly – contortions my body had undergone. Gauze, blinking lights, hurried and hushed conversation. Everything broken and without life.
In a way, I was asleep, resting free and easy.
It was a car accident.
Maybe I’d dropped something and tried to pick it up before it damaged the car’s interior. When I looked up, I thought I had to slam on the brakes, they can tell themselves.
God, he must’ve panicked. What a horrible crash.
That way, they’ll be saved from knowing what really happened.
And, in death, I won’t seem like the asshole I was in life.