I’m sitting on the top level of a double decker bus headed from Atlanta to Jacksonville on Valentine’s Day. Later today I will be driving my new Kia Forte back from Jacksonville to Atlanta. A week ago this was not the plan.
Last Thursday I was driving home in the evening. It was dark and the rain was being fickle as it had been all day. I’d just dropped off my rental car at Enterprise and was tired from a long day spent on Clemson’s campus at a career fair and unsuccessful information session. I just wanted to go to bed.
My thoughts were on my best friend in the office whose last day was the next day. She was moving to Costa Rica. And I had everything planned. Her birthday was on Sunday and I was sure she wasn’t expecting us to celebrate. I had a card and I’d decided to wake up early and pick up a cake on my way to work. It was all planned.
But plans, as everyone knows, are just wishes- the presumption that we have some sort of control over our lives. I was the first to pull into the intersection that connected to the road my apartment is on. I was so close- less than a mile from my place. Out of nowhere I hear frantic honking; I see a car rushing toward my driver side door and then my car is spinning into oncoming traffic. Upon impact my head hit the window and then it’s all a blur.
I don’t remember doing so, but I must have hit the brakes. I had to have put my car into park, right? Because somehow I stopped without hitting anyone else at a very busy intersection. I do remember turning off my windshield wipers, thinking there is nothing more annoying than the creak creak of old windshield wipers when there’s no rain.
I think I was in the intersection for an hour. I didn’t do much. The car behind me when I pulled into the intersection was a police officer. There was no doubt who was at fault, which is a good thing. I knew I would have second guessed myself. Did I just think the light was green?
I did call my mom while I sat in my car. My parents were on their date night. She tells me now she gets nervous every time I call her since that night. I cried some. My head hurt a lot. I cried more when I got out of my car to look at the damage. I was lucky with only a bumped head. My car wasn’t so lucky. The other driver hit my front tire. It was sitting sort of lopsided. I don’t know much about cars, but I knew at once my beautiful car was totaled.
Not many people, if anyone, would have called my car beautiful. It was a 1997 Ford Escort and had been my companion for 12 years. It hadn’t had a side view mirror for 9 of those years. The paint was peeling. A profane word was keyed into the side (a story for another time, maybe). The A/C hadn’t worked in three years- not fun living in Atlanta for two summers. There were stains and smells and the upholstery on the ceiling had dry rot; it looked like a cat got really angry and clawed it apart. But it was still beautiful to me. It’s driven so many places, toted many passengers, played awesome music and heard me sing at the top of my lungs. I felt a piece of me pulled away when my car was towed onto the back of a wrecker truck.
The last week has passed in a haze starting with an ER visit, then hours on the phone with insurance companies, getting a rental car, a meeting with ALTLink, looking up cars I might be able to afford, planning for the two apartment events my roommate and I had to put on, work and now “the trip”- which is what I’m calling today, an entire day spent in traveling.
Why did it happen? Why on that night? Everyone wants to give me a possible reason. Or tell me how lucky I am and how much worse it could have been. They’re right, of course. But as for a reason, I may never know. And that’s ok. Plans are just our wishes. If nothing else, it has given me six free hours on a bus with no work or chores calling my name at home. I have six free hours to write, to think and to pray. Maybe that’s just what I needed.