Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Mid Day Anonymous

I was driving seven over the speed limit in the passing lane when the truck veered toward me. I didn’t honk my horn or swerve toward the guardrail. I did not scream. I did not gasp or clench my wheel. I did not react.
I had been on the road from
Baltimore. I was visiting a woman I had been seeing. All too brief, the weekend was lovely—the kind of visit I could only have had traveling alone and the kind I needed before moving to New York City.
Since the near accident, I’ve tried to slow every good moment down, though not through epiphany or sentiment. Essentially, epiphanies are planned through thought or careful consideration. Sentiment relies too heavily on forced memories. Accidents, being aberrations, force the mind’s reaction away from memory.
In fact, I only remember scant details: only the brightest, sharpest details and afterthoughts wash over me. In retrospect, it is probably best to forget the sun being out, the hall of trees surrounding me, the line of a song blaring “What will you do now, with no one to go to,” the eighteen wheel truck, and the drive entering it’s sixth hour of no air conditioning. The details unimportant; it was the earnest thought that came just as I considered death—many have suffered, and none has thought themselves worth it. This was a line in a song I never performed, a fitting tribute to its overwrought nature. Yet the line remains a refuge. A coarse reiteration of what any 23 year old knows: I will never be important to a future generation, but should always be important to this one (even if in a small circle of friends and family).
While the sudden thoughts were validated by the piecemeal memory cycle, I couldn’t explain the stillness of my reflexes. The problem with lack of reaction is its marginalization—finality relegated to an afterthought. I didn’t have a problem with the idea, only it’s being recycled. Why leave myself defenseless? Do I really consider myself “worth the suffering?” Is that what I want my last thought to be? Many have suffered, and none have thought themselves worth it? After the truck swerved back into its lane, I questioned my “final” ideas and lack of response. A sweeping remorse came over me, and I attached myself.
I imagined my funeral at eighteen or even twenty; an affair with unsure emotions and unprepared speakers.
As I passed him later, the truck driver and I locked eyes. I apologized silently for my tactless vision—my lack of notification that he could have killed us both. He apologized for almost killing us both. I was reticent to pass him, but I was glad to experience this double confession. Freeing, the forgiveness became a manifesto of sorts. I apologized to everyone I knew for my lack of action that day, if silently: women I should have treated respectfully, family I have not trusted, friends I have scorned, and acquaintances I have ignobly offended.
Of course, I realize the dangers of living in apology, but no understanding comes without remorse, and none comes through panic. Now, I come to that understanding. Now, I slow down to react without self effacement. Now, I imagine a funeral of joined hands and otherwise happy souls reunited and reliving a suffering soul that no longer thinks to matter. I am worth the suffering, in a way, as vindicated by a trucker’s nervous nod toward a Boston cap and a sweat soaked tee shirt.
Without a car in
New York, I may live longer, but I may not receive the erstwhile indulgence I received while narrowly avoiding death. I-85 never looked as lifeless as when I lived through it, yet never as vibrant as I remember it.


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