I don't remember much anymore of what happened that night. I only really know that you didn't care anymore.
The rest of the story... well, I have to rely on what other people saw that night.
I'm still not exactly sure what went wrong. It was only a month into our relationship and somehow, in the course of 24 hours, things went from well to hell.
Maybe it was that I listened when you told me I put too much effort into my appearance. I showed up at your door in sweats, an old shirt, and a sport bra that blatantly stuck out: my attempt at growing our my hair thrown back into a stretchy headband and a few too many hair pins. I didn't wear any makeup that night, and maybe it was a mistake.
Maybe it was that I wouldn't leave with you that night. There was so much to deal with before I could feel right about just leaving with you... leaving my small world behind. No one you knew had quite that level of obligation, and it was unfair to you that you should want to be with the only one who did. I guess I can understand that. Even now, knowing what I know about you, I can't really say I would have ever left with you. I asked you to give me more time and be patient until I could really feel secure about running away with you and maybe it was a mistake.
I won't know for certain what happened that night. I know you'll never tell me. I only really know that your face had changed that night. There was no love in it anymore and I was too busy imagining our future together to see it.
That month was a good one, I won't deny it. I felt a tinge of shame throughout our continuous rendezvous, because we had united under the pain and anger we felt toward someone I had fallen for too deeply, too fast; someone you had dealt with for much too long. I let you know that I had no intentions of trusting you, and like a true Don Juan, you knew and said everything that I wanted to hear. I found it strange that someone would have avoided the chance to physically take advantage of my want for affection, and I couldn't help but think that maybe it was a ploy and that I wasn't your attraction so much as the controversy of our situation. That being said, I am happy to say that after all those nights, we never did cross that line.
We had discussed my drinking problem as a side note. I had come to believe, so strongly, that I was amicable only after the second drink of the evening. In some strange rationality over trying to make things work, I decided to have 4 on the way to your house.
I had become a star alcoholic by that point in time. Even you told the police that you couldn't tell if I had even had one; not that the drinking mattered. Enough time had passed before you asked me to leave that the affects had worn off.
I had been asleep for at least 2 hours when you woke me to tell me it was time to go. I have to admit how confusing this was. I'm as sure that you have no idea how strange that sounded coming from you as I am that that was your intention in the long run. Any other night, I would have simply moved my car, we would have picked up where we left off, and we would have snuck my person out through the front door before anyone knew that I had been there. This night was different. This night you didn't want me. But this was the night that I needed you most.
Waking up after two hours of sleep had done me no good. I pleaded with you before I left, letting you know that I was as tired as I was perplexed over your lack of affection. Maybe I didn't make it clear enough; how tired I really was... that I really didn't think I should be driving. I respected you and your wishes, though, enough to leave that night. A little after midnight, we exchanged an idea that we would talk tomorrow. Tomorrow became null and void with a horrible quickness.
What I do remember is bits and pieces of what happened. I don't remember what or how I was feeling, what was playing the CD changer at the time. My eyes closed for just a second, which was enough time for my tires to slide off the right side of the road. All at once, I jerked my eyes open, the steering wheel to the left, and my foot straight into the gas pedal. Delirium or terror took over at this point, and I could not understand why as hard as I pressed on what I thought was the break pedal, the car just kept going faster.
I over corrected into the left lane, panicked, and over corrected again... past the right lane... over the shallow ditch at the shoulder... into fields and yards that I didn't recognize. I saw flashes of ground, trees and houses flitting by like strange, large hummingbirds. I couldn't scream. I was still trying to figure out why the break wasn't working. I held onto the steering wheel as tightly as I could. I looked down as quickly as I could, trying to decide what move to make... why couldn't I move my leg? My eyes flitted back up and all I saw was a stationary wood post before me, bigger now in my memory than what it really measured. As the car sped toward it, the headlights reflected brighter until I saw nothing but a white light.
Then, all of a sudden, my body jerked forward. It felt like the time that my friend took me over the railroad tracks at 70 miles an hour and I didn't listen when he told me to hold onto the seat. This was a little different, though. The nose of the car went down and I felt myself thrown up towards the ceiling. The sound was so loud that I can only remember it, now, as having gone deaf for a split second. The jarring feeling of my teeth hitting hard together caused my eyes to close.
When I came to, I didn't wonder what had happened, or how I had survived. I knew I had crashed and I knew I had to get the key out of the ignition. I was so afraid that the car was going to explode... I had seen the commericals and I knew that was the first thing I should do. I didn't know why, though, I couldn't find the key. Where was anything in my car? Beneath me felt hard... I knew I wasn't in the front seat anymore, but where was I? I could hear the keys jingle, but I just couldn't find them. Oh my God... oh my God... Then I heard voices. I started crying.
"Help. Please, someone get me out of here. PLEASE, JUST GET ME OUT OF HERE!!!"
I heard metal scratch against itself and I felt a breeze. An open door and a voice.
"We're trying, hun. Can you make it out through here? We're going to get you out. We're going to get you out."
Where the common sense came from, I've no clue. I wasn't thinking at all, but I grabbed my purse and my phone. 'Where are my shoes? Fuck it. I don't care.' I crawled through the front seats, over some random stuff, and out into the air. I stood up and someone came to catch me.
"Wait... where is the key? Someone has to get the key out of the ignition. I have to call someone. I just need to go home. Please, help me find the key so I can get out of here."
I don't remember what anyone's face looked like, but I remember the shock on them. I remember hearing something about not believing she was up and walking around. I heard, "She needs to lay down."
"Honey, you can't go home. Not right now."
"Please, I'm fine. Just let me go home."
"Here, lie down over here. Someone's coming. Just lay here until they get here."
There was a car seat on the ground. Someone helped me lay down over it. I curled up in a fetal position and wondered who's seat I was on. How long was I out? Did someone have the time to take out the back seat of their car for me to lay on?
I called you. You were the first person I thought of, and the closest. I knew I was only a few miles from your house, and probably a million miles from my own. At least it seemed that way. I started to notice how much my lip hurt, and how big it felt. It just got in the way when I started talking. I did my best to cover up the muffled speech and make real words. Your mom answered the phone.
"Hi. Is *** there?"
She had a very exhausted tone as she said, "Yes, hang on just a second."
You just sounded annoyed. "Hey, what is it?"
"Look, I'm sorry. I know it's a little late to call. There was an accident. I'm just a few miles from your house. Can you come? Please?"
"What? Oh, fuck, Chelsea. Yeah, I'll be there in a minute."
I drifted in and out for an immeasurable amount of time. My head hurt so much and I wanted to sleep, but I knew I shouldn't. All those Discovery Channel medical shows had to pay off, I felt. I cuddled my phone and my purse and just listened to all the loud voices. I saw some bright lights. Then I saw you walking through the small crowd of people. Some of them stopped to ask you some questions. I think they were cops. I tried to listen to your answers. Then you walked over and squatted down to the ground in front of me.
I felt more like I was being scolded. I felt like I should be scolded at that point, so I didn't care. I felt like a seven year old who had broken a dish and cut herself on the glass. A mixture of shame, guilt, want for affection... or at the least, pity.
"I don't know," I whined, the tears starting to come.
"You look horrible."
"Was anyone else in the accident? I keep hearing about 'upside down' and stuff like that. I don't understand what anyone is saying."
"Chelsea, you flipped your car. Your... car... is... upside... down."
"I'm not stupid. You don't have to slow down... wait, what? No. My car is not upside down."
"Chelsea, really. Look."
I could barely lift my head up. My neck felt so sore. My head must have weighed 200 pounds. I looked up over my hip at all four wheels of my car, touching the night air. My car was, indeed, upside down."
"Oooooooh..." I sobbed. "Fuck."
"You know you hit a telephone pole, right?"
"Well, you did. You hit it so hard it fell over. You're lucky no one else was hurt."
"I know that. How long was I out? Someone got their car seat out for me to lay on. Wasn't that nice?"
You shook your head in frustration. You still looked annoyed. "Chelsea, that's your car seat. It flew out of the back of your car."
We said a few more things. The conversation consisted mostly of me whining to go home, saying that I was fine, and you letting me know that the ambulance was on its way. I'm pretty sure I apologized a lot. I only say that because I know I always do.
The paramedics were nice. I felt like they asked too many questions, but I answered each and every one of them like a champ. This was more out of fear that I might go to sleep. You should never go to sleep when you may have a concussion. They asked if I had been drinking. I told them not for the last 5 hours. What time was it, anyway? I held tightly to my phone and purse the whole time.
I faded in and out through the night. I remember going through the doors on the stretcher... how strange it felt to be undressed by someone else... how weird and stiff and crunchy my clothes felt. I kept asking where you were. They told me you were in the waiting room, so I asked them not to let you see me like this. You already had, but I just didn't want to see that look on your face again.
They took me into the X-ray room and made me hold myself up with a bar that hung horizontally above me. It hurt so much. I just wanted to let go and fall back onto the soft pillow. I was certain that hitting anything, even a pillow, would have been too much of an impact, though, and I was afraid of the pain.
I wasn't sobbing anymore, at this point, but the tears were streaming down my face. There were much too many tears and they were warmer that I remembered. I noticed, then, that I felt them running down my forehead. This didn't make sense. I wasn't upside down anymore; and, anyway, my other tears were running their normal course down the sides of my cheeks. I reached up to touch the extra tears. Red. Blood, blood red. I winced, which stretched the wound and caused me more pain. I cried, not for that, but for having realized that I really, really fucked up this time.
It's a funny feeling to have all of these people running around you at high speed. Everyone knows what they're doing, and you're still not sure why you're there, let alone what they are doing to you. You just know, at that moment, that everyone seems really nice and that you should trust them because you couldn't possibly fix this yourself.
I fiddled with my phone a little in the x-ray room. I was still holding onto it and thinking about calling my mom. Then I remembered something about how you shouldn't operate a cell phone in a radiation facility or something like that, so I put it down until they wheeled me out and down to the emergency room. I passed under one of those circular mirrors along the way... the kind that you can see the whole room in. I knew I saw myself, but I couldn't really associate it. All I saw was red. Blood, blood red. I was thankful, then, that I hadn't called Mom yet.
Mom. Oh, yeah. I should probably call her now.
She calmly answered the phone. "Where are you? What are you doing?"
"I'm at vuh hosvitow..." My lip had apparently swelled more since the last time I had tried to speak.
"I know. They already called me. I'm on my way."
By the time Mom arrived, they had already cleaned up my face. I still had no idea what time it was or how long I had been there. Everyone was still nice, so I was content with just that. Time could jump ship, for all I was concerned. Can I sleep now, please?
The ER doctor and nurses took turns talking to me, asking questions... random things, not really about the accident. The alcohol pads and wet cloths felt cool on my skin. I started to realize how much my head really hurt. Mom came in and spoke with the doctor and the nurses. I didn't really do much talking. The wet cloths started to migrate toward the middle of my forehead. I winced again and moaned a little out of pain.
"Sweetheart, what have you had for pain?"
"Have you had anything for pain?"
"Vut do you nean?"
"Oh my God... you mean you've been here almost four hours and they haven't given you anything? (Hook her with some morphine.) You'll feel better soon."
As soon as the needle hit, I felt this warm feeling wash over my stomach. All of a sudden, 'not caring' progressed to 'not giving a rat's ass' and things started to slow down a lot.
The doctor told my mother first, and then me, that they were going to give me some stitches. They were also going to give me some staples.
"Yep. Staples. We're going to staple up your head. Just like paperwork!"
The doctor began to take out the million bobby pins that held up my hair before he began the procedure. Chunks of dried-up, glued-together hair began to break off with each removed pin. A nurse had the decency to freak out.
"Oh my God! I can see her skull!"
"You know what? I think you can go run your rounds on the other patients now and let me do this. She's been through enough without having to hear that. Thanks."
Mom got a little squeamish. "I need to go. I'm diabetic and I need to go eat something and..."
"Nom, juft thell them tha you awe gunma be sick and go. I'm fffine."
"She's fine, Mrs. Carr. You can go. We'll page you when we're ready for you again."
My eyes rolled upward to watch the doctors hands and the great big staple gun. I listened calmly to the normal clinky sounds of an office stapler, with the added thud and scratch of the staples hitting a hard surface. I thought about that summer I attempted upholstery work with my aunt. I was a piece of furniture being repaired. Pretty cool. Or maybe I was just high.
Then they began the stitches. I nearly went cross-eyed, watching the needle and thread go in and out of my forehead and then the right side of my bottom lip. I am a beloved ragdoll, I thought. The kind that you don't throw away. The kind your great grandmother made and you want to pass down to your first born when they are old enough to take good care of it. I am a family tradition.
Hey, I told you I was high. We ain't talking about Tylenol. This was morphine.
After all was said (well, muffled) and done, Mom was informed that I was ready to go. The nurse helped me into a wheelchair after making sure that my hospital gown was wrapped tightly over my little bones. She then wrapped my legs in a blanket and told me that Mom would be pulling the car around so I could just pop right in. I had never imagined it was so cold outside. Granted that I didn't have a jacket and my feet were still bare, but it was below freezing and much colder than I had remembered it being. This is North Carolina, for Christ's sake. We are the product of global warming. Winter barely exists here, even in the middle of December!
I looked at the nurse and started to unwrap my legs. I wasn't going to steal anything... not tonight.
"No, no, honey. That's yours. You can keep that." There was still blood on it.
I asked about you before I left. They told me you had waited for me, but that it was too late and they sent you home. I felt bad about that. Like you followed me for nothing.
I slept a lot that morning. Mom let me sleep in her bed, with a towel under my head to catch any excess blood that happened to fall. My hair was still and crunchy and mauled in general. I knew I looked a mess, but it didn't matter then. I took my pain medicine and went to sleep.
When I woke up, I called your house. I sat out in the kitchen while Mom heated up some soup. Your mom answered the phone. She sounded concerned, this time, rather than exhausted. She asked me polite questions about the wreck before she put the phone down to run and get you.
You told me about how they wouldn't let you see me. You told me how long you waited and that they had told you to go home and call the hospital the next day, which you did. You asked is you could come and see me. I told you that it was iffy because the house was a wreck (and had been since dad's death), but that I would ask and it should be possible. You told me that you were going back to sleep and that I should do the same. You'd call me again in a couple of hours.
Three more days passed and I didn't hear from you. That day I called your house 3 times. The next day, I called 10. Eventually, your mother just stopped picking it up. Maybe it was a little much, but goddamn it, I needed to talk to you. I needed to know what had happened. I needed to know why you weren't here with me, and why you didn't want to be. Where were you and why didn't you care?
I had one visitor in the next couple of days before I heard from you again. My ex-boyfriend, David. He had no idea what had happened and called out of the blue.
"Hey! I was just listening to the Feist song and it made me think of you. How are you?"
"Well, I was in a car accident last night."
"Ha! No, really... how are you?"
"... well, I was in a car accident last night..."
"Oh my God! Are you okay?!"
The next night he was over with a much needed pack of cigarettes and a hug. We talked about everything that had happened in the years since we'd seen each other, and when things got too serious, he put on mom's old glamour wig and made me take pictures. I smiled and laughed for the first time since that night.
There was a party, David told me, the next night. I was invited. There would be beer (which I couldn't have then), and soda pop (which I could), and pot (score!). I was to be the guest of honor and all my old friends would be there. I called my doctor to ask if it was okay, even with the stitches still in. To my delight, as long as I felt up to it, I could go. It was wonderful to see everyone again, and it took my mind off of what I did hear when I finally heard from you.
I was angry when I finally got to speak to you. I tried to hide it, but some things you just can't... and you picked up on it quickly.
"Look, don't be mad with me because I haven't had time to call. I needed a break. I've been sick these last couple of days and I needed to rest."
I wanted to scream at you. "I HAVE 19 FUCKING STITCHES IN MY HEAD AND I CAN STILL PICK UP A GODDAMNED PHONE!"
You did eventually come to see me. When you picked me up from my house, I was all smiles. I don't know if I had thought you had changed your mind about me, or if I knew you had made it up in the first place. I did my best to make you comfortable, though, wearing a hat to hide my mauled appearance as best as I could, so you wouldn't have to confront what had happened.
After the initial greeting, I started to see the contempt on your face. You looked like a man meeting his pregnant lover's parents. You had never amounted to stay together in the first place, and now there was this thing keeping you emprisoned in what was never meant to be a relationship, let alone a friendship. You were polite with my mother, and I appreciate that.
We went to a mutual friend's house where a joint lay ready and waiting. It was the first time I had not felt pain since the accident. Everyone wanted to see my wounds. Against your unspoken wishes, I showed them... right in front of you.
A part of me wanted you to know how alone I felt... how angry I was that you hadn't even attempted to call or come and find me those last few days. A part of me understood, because half the time I don't even want to be around me, not to mention having to deal with this. Another part of me just wanted you to love me, and knew that that was never, never going to happen.
That was the last time I saw you for a while. I began to hear things through other acquaintances. I heard that you had gone back to having an affair with the teacher twice my age who you had been seeing before me. I heard that you were still hanging out with all of our old friends. They even called me to tell me that you were at the Christmas party I wasn't able to attend because I had no car and everyone was too drunk to drive by the time they thought to let me know about it. This didn't bother me half so much as the things I heard from people I didn't really know.
It was probably about a month later when we were confronted at the bar. Broken hearted, I had started going out again, schmoozing with the trouble that had got me to where I was in the first place. The teacher was there, with a friend who blatantly didn't like me. I remembered her by her reference to me as 'The Bitch at the Bar,' which you felt it important to clue me in on. That's when I found out what you really thought. Said girl approached my friends and I overheard her telling my story from your perspective. I flared with anger. According to trusted sources, I had tried to kill myself upon the discovery that we were through.
How dare you.
You knew I was sick. You knew I needed help. But you knew that I had been happy... that things were looking up for me. You knew that I was beginning to compose myself and that I really had a good head on my shoulder, albeit for the sadness that never seemed to leave. But the idea that I would off myself in such a way... in such a horribly painful way... and over what? You? Really?
I had been asked this by a few people, in general and with no reference to you. These questions did not bother me as they were from genuinely concerned people who really wanted to know. I politely corrected their assumptions and went on. But this was too much.
I started to wonder... if I had died, is this what people would be saying? This huge line you had crossed, from asking a pressing question to proclaiming an awful assumption as an unavoidable truth without ever even giving mention of it to me... without ever even once consulting me...
How DARE you!
You know, a decent person would have informed the other that a relationship was just not possible. I can't think of many people who would just inspire this kind of hatred purposefully before disappearing altogether.
This all being said, I don't remember much of what happened anymore. I only really know that you didn't care at all, anymore.
And I know that you lied.