As you drive out of our neighborhood to the intersection with the freeway, the break in the trees offers up a vision of the blue ridges surrounding the city. Even after two years, I find this so breathtaking I almost never fail to shout, “Hello mountains!” when I see them. Astrid and I were on a Sunday trip to Target to buy new flip-flops.
When the naked woman ran out of the scrub on the side of the road, waving her arms, tangled hair flying, the mountains disappeared. So incongruous was she against the almost impossibly blue sky that I didn’t process her presence at first.
And then I had three thoughts, in quick succession:
“She’s been raped.”
“She’s running for her life.”
“She’s high on something.”
It was probably because of that last thought I didn’t pull over immediately when I saw her.
I didn’t unlock my door for her.
Instead I pulled up to the nearest stoplight, threw the car in park, punched on my flashers, and readied to get out, just as she reached my passenger window.
In airplane safety lingo, I put on my mask and my child’s mask first. But by then, it was too late to put on hers.
The truck came screaming out from a gravel lot in the bushes where the DOT stores piles of sand in the winter. A black blur, it threw her against my car with an eerie soft thwump. Inches from my front bumper, it never slowed across the intersection, through the “Do Not Enter” sign, and onto the highway, driving against traffic.
As calmly as I could, I told Astrid to stay in the car, but that I would need to get out. Good folks guided the injured woman to the curb, unbelievably still upright and walking, though her face was suddenly a crimson mask of blood. Hands passed blankets to cover her nude body, water bottles to wash her. Fingers dialed 911.
Not that I was involved in any of that. I called Matt: There was an accident. We are fine. I am a witness. Get Astrid out of here.
“Lawyer-Cindy” came out of storage in a whole take-charge-eyewitness kind of way, making a police statement I’m sure would have gotten an “A” were it graded. Investigators photographed my van and took blood samples from the point of impact. I thanked the officers with firm handshakes all around; the woman long ago carried away, ambulance lights flashing.
But as I left to drive home, the what-ifs began their chorus of questioning whispers in my head. What if I’d stopped right away rather than driving that extra 50 feet? What if I’d popped the lock for her? Had I have saved myself over her? Should I have done more? Would it have been worse? Aren’t we defined by the choices we make, in the blink of an eye?
When the local news called today, I declined politely to be interviewed on camera.
I’m very honored that this post was chosen as the Jury Prize Winner in the Yeah Write blogging challenge No. 67. I don’t often do purely serious posts, and I so appreciate your caring comments below and support on Twitter and Facebook.