The Bruising Will Come Later
May 17, 2013

The last few weeks had been difficult. Seemed like one thing after another was just not working. But today? Today had been a good day. The sun was shining - though, to be fair, the sun is almost always shining in New Mexico - work was good. When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the place I worked, I had only two things on my mind: the weekend, and my drive home.

My drive home because there was construction by the highway and people are afraid to merge in construction in New Mexico. Though that sentence shouldn't bother me, it stays in my mind for an uncomfortably long time. It's a good day. I'm in a good mood. I don't want to fight people trying to merge, or worse, people feeling like they can zip to the front of the line and then force their way into the line. I don't want to have an accident.

On a whim, I decide to go by the volcanoes instead. It's a pretty day and no need to ruin it with traffic because people are such slaves to habit they won't leave the slopes of their home volcano even when it starts to smoke and rumble. I have to drive west for a while on old Route 66 and seeing those signs always makes me smile. I feel home here. My window is down. I'm taking the scenic route today, the weekend starting off right.

The speed limit quickly climbs to 55 because there's nothing out this way. Except, up ahead, there's a little strip mall area. The speed limit doesn't drop, but I ease off a bit. I'm in the right lane, I think, because I'm going to have to turn right up ahead a ways. While there's a bit of traffic now, it's light. Nothing like my usual route with the steady hum of traffic, the squealing of brakes and tires, the harsh changing of gears as the little sports cars shifted up and down, revving their engines loudly as they zipped around the bigger cars, jockeying for position.

And then, for a split second which did not, contrary to popular fancy, last any longer than a normal split second, there was another vehicle coming into the intersection, interrupting my perfectly green light. Someone else had already gone through the intersection. This light was not newly green. It had not turned yellow. It was green and that car, that car was not supposed—

The sounds were muffled, really. As if I were watching it on tv with the volume turned low. And it sounded like a movie, metal rending against metal, tires squealing, glass shattering. Something loud like a gunshot, both distant and immediate.

I remember that brief interlude of there's a car where there shouldn't be and then white cloth in my face and my sunglasses being torn off my face, but my regular glasses staying put, just somewhat askew. I knew there'd been a wreck and that this was no little fender bender. I tried to open my door, but it wouldn't budge. It was locked. It wouldn't unlock. How do you get out of a car if your door won't... the passenger door. Crawl over - oh hey! Look, there's smoke coming out of the vents, yeah, I didn't turn the car off yet. I sag back into my seat and turn the engine off, then start, wow, the car's kind of a mess, I really should have cleaned it out last weekend.

Standing in the bright sunlight. My sunglasses are still in the car, but I don't want to grab them. There's something I'm supposed - oh I should call 911. I think I started to do that when I was in the car, but I forgot how and then the engine and I couldn't get out. It's bright. I need to turn the contrast up and it takes me three or four tries to remember how to call 911.

The instant before the collision there was a white car where there shouldn't have been. And then I saw white. I turn around for the first time and look for the other car. It's a silver Jeep Liberty. It will be days before I realize that the split second of time merged vehicle and air bags into one scene because that faint image has a cloth seam in it. White airbags, silver Jeep Liberty, seam.

And I am talking to 911 even though someone driving by said someone else has already called 911. But you're supposed to call after a wreck and so that is what I do. I do what you're supposed to do.

And a man comes up behind me and raises up my left hand.

"You're bleeding," he says.

Oh. Huh. I didn't know. Doesn't look too bad. I twist up my arm so I can see it. Really, just a puncture. Another person driving by thrusts a wad of napkins out their passenger window. The man runs over to grab them and presses them to the puncture where blood is still dripping out onto the sidewalk. I blink at it. Someone's going to have to clean this up. It freaks people out when they see blood in public places. Ever since the 80s, people see a speck of blood and they just panic as if the HIV virus will leap through time and space and force its way down—

"Is anyone hurt?" the 911 operator is asking.

I realize I don't know which is not like me at all because I feel compelled to help people.

I look over at other car. The silver Jeep Liberty, not a white car at all. He is outside the silver Jeep Liberty and he won't look at me. But he is standing. He is walking, even with his cast on. So I guess he's hurt. No. He was hurt before. He's got a cast on, so he's better - geez, that must suck to be in a wreck when your left leg is already in a cast. Poor guy.

"I don't think so," I reply.

The nice man holding my arm above my head and pressing napkins into it so I stop bleeding all over the sidewalk and freaking everyone out says, "Tell them to send the paramedics anyway. Always tell them to send the paramedics."

"Oh. This man here says you should send them anyway."

The nice 911 operator continues talking and I'm really not sure what she's saying. I already told her where the wreck was and that this man in the silver Jeep Liberty must have turned left in front of me because I cannot think what else could have happened. It all happened so fast. Time did not slow down and come to a standstill. There was no moment of realization and then the molasses time where you know what to do and nothing is moving fast enough to avoid the inevitable and you just can't—

The police are here. The 911 operator says something and then I ask the officer if I can hang up on 911 now because they are here. I have to ask him twice and he just blinks at me and nods. "Yes. I'm here now."

He asks me something and the paramedics come up at the same time and the officer walks away before I can answer him. There are either a hundred or four paramedics and they are swarming around me like ants at a picnic. They keep asking me if I have diabetes or high blood pressure and I keep telling them no and then another one comes up and asks me the same damn thing do you have diabetes? What about high blood pressure? And I still say no and then one of them comes at me with the blood pressure cuff and the little pulse thing that goes on your finger and I wonder for a minute about why they didn't take my temperature, too.

I don't remember the exact number. It was something insane like 196 over 120, numbers I have never ever heard in my life in reference to my blood pressure. I'm not sure this paramedic, who suddenly looks like he's barely 18 has seen these numbers before because his eyes widen as if he's looking at a ghost and he blurts them out to another paramedic. The two on my left are hovering even more intensely although they don't step any closer. I think they're waiting for me to fall over.

Thank god for the older paramedic. "Do you have high blood pressure?" he asks for the 18th time.


He just looks at the young guy. "Check it again in a little bit." He meets my eyes, then looks at the boy again. Nods toward my car, the implied conversation seems to be "Look at the car, you moron. Your blood pressure would spike if you'd been in that, too." And he walks away.

Another paramedic comes over and I show her my left hand because I have just noticed it's about twice its normal size and already impressively purple. "Hey, my pinky is kind of cold."

She seems disinterested. "Do you have high blood pressure? Diabetes?"

I am bored of this question and quickly look down at my phone. I should probably call someone. But my partner is likely driving home right now and I don't want to call her when she's driving. And she'll probably freak out. It's not good to make someone freak out when they're driving. I text a coworker.

"Can u come pick me up?? Central and 98th"

"Sure. Everything ok?"

I look at my car and back to the phone. "Car totaled"

"Shit be right there. You ok?"

I suddenly realize that I haven't talked to the cops yet, really. I'm not sure if I can leave yet and I don't want my coworker to have to stand around and wait. "Mostly. Don't know if I can leave yet"

"On my way"

And I feel bad for asking her to leave work early. I look around. There's the cop. I fish around in my back pocket for my wallet. Pull out the driver's license and insurance card. What the HELL? I know the insurance is up-to-date, but the card's not. Dammit. Fuck.

I hand them to him, "I can't find the right insurance card. I know it's valid, but this is the last one, but all the information is correct and I always have the right card and I don't know why it's not in my wallet—"

He just smiles and nods and takes my information and heads over to his car.

The paramedic boy checks my blood pressure again. It's been maybe five minutes, but it's coming down. 160 over something stupid now. I officially refuse going to the hospital and have to sign the little computer saying I refused to come in. I am appalled at how crappy the signature is and wonder if the handwriting software is that bad or if the screen just isn't very sensitive. I hold out my hand. Rock steady.

I look around. The nice man who had held the napkins to my arm until the paramedics arrived walks back up and hands me his business card.

"Did you see the wreck?" I ask suddenly realizing I had no witnesses and this was not my fault.

"No. But here's my card. If the police give you any trouble, you give me a call anyway."

I thank him and he walks off.

I look at my car. Walk around to the driver's side. The tire is shredded. And the car is sagging. I bet the axle is broken. Definitely not drivable. And the driver's side door is crinkled and ... kind of pushed back. No wonder I couldn't get it open. The mirror is gone. Sitting inside the car. That's probably what hit my hand.


I look over at the silver Jeep Liberty. The wheel well is messed up on the driver's side, but it looks like it might be drivable. The driver is on the sidewalk. Staring at the ground. He won't look at me. The cop calls him over. A woman is standing next to me.

"Someone rear-ended him last week on his motorcycle," she says quietly.

"I wondered why he was in a cast. Is he okay?"

She nods.

I begin getting the most important things out of my car so I'm ready when my coworker gets here. I don't want to make her wait. It's a beautiful day out now, but it was cold this morning and I hope I didn't drip any blood on my coat. It's a tan corduroy coat that I love and I'd be really pissed if there was blood on it. I drop it on the sidewalk next to my bag. I'm hoping there's still an empty bag in my trunk to get the rest of the stuff out. If the car is totaled, I need to get everything out.

There is a bag. The bag I made fun of a few months ago, a freebie from work. I shove everything from the glovebox in there. Clear out the arm rest container, the trunk. Pull out the two six-packs of Diet Pepsi I'd bought this morning. The kitty litter. I make a pile on the sidewalk and feel bad about taking up room on the sidewalk. And that I can't move my car further over. It's in the right lane, all the way through to the west side of the intersection, so at least the road is kind of clear.

"What happened?" the cop asks quietly.

"I was driving west," I said. "And then he turned left in front of me. But I had a green light. Other people had already gone through."

He nods.

"Are there any witnesses?"

He shrugs and I pale. "He said the same thing."

I am incredibly relieved. What a rarity for someone to own their mistake. He still won't look at me. The top of his head seems attached to a string pulling his head down to the sidewalk. Waiting for the ground to swallow him whole.

I see my coworker and wave. I pick up some of the lighter things, my bag, the hiking sticks, my coat and she grabs the other bag, the Pepsi and the litter. I feel bad for making her carry heavy things and as I try to protest, she insists with a look at my left hand, swollen and purple.

I ask another officer if I can go. He's surprised, but amenable. He hands me the paperwork for the towing of my car. I walk away.

We pass the other driver. He cannot raise his head.

I put my arm gently on his shoulder and say softly, "I know we've both had a shitty day, but I want to thank you for telling the police the truth. That means a lot."

I walk away. I don't look back.

We put my things in my coworker's trunk. I check my arm. I don't want to bleed on her car, in her car. She's got a damn nice car. It's stopped bleeding. But I have dry blood all over my left arm. Huh. Didn't realize I bled that much. I mean there were drops on both airbags from where I climbed out and everything. And some on the sidewalk, big drops.

And the paramedics didn't even give me any gauze or anything. They didn't even just run some water over it. Huh. I thought they did that kind of thing.

We begin the drive north to the little 'burb where we live. Neither of us quite knows how to get there from this particular road, but she soon gets us back to the road we both normally take home. She drives the speed limit so carefully. She's a lot like me and knows when to talk a little and when to just let the silence sit comfortably around us. She offers me her water and even though I'm really thirsty all of a sudden, I tell her I'm fine. We talk a bit. I don't want to talk much about the wreck because I know she's had a few traumatic ones and I don't want to make her think about them. Except I can't really think of much else to talk about. There wasn't supposed to be a car there. And then there was and I'm okay. I mean, really, not all that much damage for being in a 55mph zone, if you think about it.

My poor car.

Everyone walked away, though.

At some point, I realize my partner is probably home by now and I call her. "I'm okay," I say. "But Y is bringing me home."


"I'm okay," I repeat and she interrupts with "I heard that, what happened?"

"The car is probably totaled. Someone hit me."

We eventually pull up to the last major intersection and I realize I am probably going to faint if I don't get some water. I really don't want—

"Actually, would you mind if I have a sip of water after all?" I'm pretty sure if I pass out in her car, she will freak and take me to the hospital.

"Of course, go ahead."

I take a long drink. And then another. I don't feel so much like I'm going to faint any more. It's kind of a near thing, but I'm good now. I give her plenty of warning for each turn in my twisty little neighbourhood. And then I apologize because I'm quite sure the dogs are going to be loud, obnoxious little brats. They get cranky when I get home late plus they won't be expecting company.

And they are just incredibly loud. You'd think they were German Shepherds instead of miniature dachshunds. We get everything inside, I apologize for the state of the house, for the dogs' behaviour and then she's leaving. I feel bad. Damn dogs are so obnoxious, ruining the one time she's come over. My partner scurries me into the bathroom to look at my wounds, ready with the implements of cleaning, disinfecting and bandaging.

I look in the mirror. No black eyes from the airbag. My face looks fine. It's just my left arm, I think.

The most important things are the hardest things to say. They are the things that you get ashamed of because words diminish them—words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size they they're brought out. But it's more than that, isn't it?

The bruising will come later.




The first four paragraphs each have a quote or near quote from a different book. The next-to-last paragraph is a quote from a fifth book. The quote in the first paragraph came to me out of the blue and I just went with it. Then I thought it was a kind of fun thing and kept it up for the next couple of paragraphs ... and then I got into the piece I was writing and went with the flow until the last quote also popped into my head. Sometimes life just works that way. Be shocked if anyone can guess which five books.... :)

Posted by Red Monkey at May 17, 2013 6:01 PM | Storytelling: She was, of course, supposed to be sleeping. | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |


Nancy said:

OMG ender, Thank God you are all right!!! I tried to email you a few posts ago, you didn't respond!! Email me girl!!

Red Monkey said: Yo ... email is sending now.
May 22, 2013 3:59 PM
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