Clearing My Head

Category: Daily Diary

The first thing I notice is the dark winding ribbon on the pavement.

We are on the interstate driving through Seattle. I’ve been jolted out of a fitful doze in the backseat by the squeal of car tires. I automatically throw my arm in front of my daughter who is sleeping in the car seat next to me and search the road ahead of us through the windshield but I can see nothing. Just the brake lights of a dozen cars.

Within moments, sirens and flashing lights are streaming past us on the shoulder of the road. A delivery truck dutifully begins to merge into the lane ahead of us to avoid something. Perhaps a blown tire or a fender bender. I settle back into my seat.

We pull abreast of the first police car in the opposite lane almost immediately. This accident has happened moments ago. I turn my head to the right and look out of the window over my daughter’s head.

And there was that dark winding ribbon on the pavement.

The man is in his thirties or forties, maybe? A heavyset man in a t-shirt and dark pants. He lies motionless on his back in the road with his arms at his sides, his eyes closed, his feet pointing up the slight incline of the interstate. He is balding and has a mustache. Except for the winding ribbon of blood on the pavement and the funny angle of one of his legs, a passer-by might think him to be asleep. There is no violent sprawl or tangle of limbs.

A white police SUV is parked diagonally in the lane next to him with the door open, trying to shield him from us. Or perhaps they are shielding us from him. One of the troopers is standing some distance from the man, talking into his phone. There is a camper parked on the side of the road a little ways beyond the police car. A tall, thin woman is standing in the road with her hand over her mouth, staring at the man. No one is crying. No one is screaming. We are all just waiting.

I scan the road, looking for a bike, a motorcycle, an abandoned car. There is nothing. Then I glance up to the bridge directly above the interstate, above the man. People are leaning over the rail of the bridge. Staring. We are all staring. It seems disrespectful. But we cannot help it.

In the space of a few moments that seem like hours, we are free of the traffic. But I’m not free of the image of this man. What is appropriate here? A prayer? Perhaps just an acknowledgement? I look over at my daughter who is clutching her blanket and a book. She has not looked out of the window and I feel relief.

Hours later, days later, the image of the man is with me. Back in Chicago, I scan the news websites from Seattle, hoping for some explanation of the event. But there is nothing. No mention of the man or his fate. And I don’t feel closure. Please forgive me for writing about it. But I need to take it out of my head and put it away somewhere else. And this is where I put things. So, perhaps I can leave the man here and let him go.

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Wow. Thank you for writing that.

I believe that there are moments of meaning that drift through our lives until something, somewhere, wakes us up just a little to say, I exist. Thank you for acknowledging that somewhere in that moment was something important, even though we may never know why it was so.

I saw something similar last year. It was ugly, a wreck on I-40. A car and 18 wheeler off the shoulder. You couldn't even tell what the car was anymore; there was one body in the car on the passanger side. I have no idea if they were alive or dead, they did not look well. I never saw anything about it in the news and don't know what happened to that person. For weeks that image haunted me like a ghost. It was a nasty snapshot wedged into my mind. Eventually it went away, but it is still locked in a box somewhere. I hope writing about it frees you from it.

I think one of the things that haunts you is knowing that the person had people who loved him, and that he had lived a life. And it was changed in that moment. It is an exclamation point as to how fast things can change. Hopefully he was taken to the hospital and revived and is healing. I'm sorry you have to wonder and not know, but thank you for sharing your memory. I hope you can release it soon. Perhaps in lighting a candle for the person, you can send your wishes to him and his family for his recovery or for their grief. Just a thought.

I am so sorry that you have this stored in your memory. Suicide is such a selfish act - and yet you can't blame the person. They were of course in such turmoil that they lose rationale. Anyway, my suggestion would be to make a donation to an organization, say a prayer -- and move on. Do not let his actions dampen your days further. Live life...MORE as a result of it.

You don't have to apologise for what you write or what you feel.
If writing it down helps you find closure from that image and memory, we will read it and feel with you.

I agree with C - if it helps you find closure, we will feel it with you.

What a blessing that Grace didn't chose that time to look out the window.

I, too am very sensitive. I remember feeling horrible for days after I had an unfortunate experience with a lawn mower and a toad. I am an animal lover of all kinds and I just kept going over it in my mind. It bothered me for quite some days! When I see another human beings suffering, say, on the news, it bothers me. I used to get mad at myself for feeling this way, but over the years(I'm forty-six) I come to understand and appreciate myself as a sensitive, caring person who has a very big heart. I know that picture in your mind haunts you, but, by reading your blog for awhile, I have come to admire your care in loving your old home and the love you have for family , friends and pets (and that bird!) I, myself have done my share of animal rescue ( a woodpecker that wouldn't get off the road, dogs, cats and a host of baby rabbits!)
All I can tell you, Jeanne, is to take your sensitivity and caring and just channel it into the caring of your family. That's what I always try to do. It always worked, especially when my children were small. Things like tragedies on the news or internet make me feel lucky to be safe and loved. You will learn to handle these kinds of situations more effectively as you get older. But just always remember that you have a very big heart that goes out to every one and that is such a great quality to have.


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