November 08, 2006

A car and a woman curled up

My roomate and I had a crash last night, and the unfortunate victim of the accident was a young lady coming home from work.

We are looking for a place to park, in the busy "up and coming" U street area, recently converted from decaying townhouses and louche neighborhood into a busy and popular evening hangout. Wanting to find a place close to the restaurant and in a rush to get there precisely at 7:30 to watch the election results, my roomate waits for a lull in traffic to swing his car around, in his usual confident, I'm-cool fashion.

I see her, a young black lady with her plastic shopping bags, all dressed in black, in the dark of the evening. My roomate is looking the other way, making sure he aligns with the lign of traffic and makes it around quickly enough to avoid other cars. I see her as she walks two feet away from our car, also taking advantage of the gap in traffic to walk across to her car, from an evening of working in a cheap clothing store.

I am close enough to see the shock on her face as she realizes she's going to be hit by our slow but sharply swinging vehicle. I extend a hand in her direction, as if pushing her back from harm, and yell "careful!" to my driver. Her body curls against the front of the bumper and she falls to the ground. The sound of the impact is terrible -I'm not sure if it's the contact of the car to her body or the sound of the breaks- and for a stomach-churning minute, I believe she is lying, pinned under the floor of the car.

I swing the door open to get to her, as my roomate slowly creeps the car out of traffic's way. My door swings more open and I am almost scared to get out.

She gets up, intact...thank you God. She is shaken and, intuitively checks that her hair is not out of place. Funny how these unimportant instincts surface. I ask (many times) if she's OK and she says yes but that she's just shaken. I hear an accent in her voice and can't stop thinking how bad this must be for her-a recent immigrant, working in a cheap clothing store, jay-walking to her car at the end of a long day, to get hit by a car. For some reason, this is worse for her than for anybody else.

The cops are instantly on the scene. They are nice, helpful, ask what's been going on and appropriately fine my roomate quite substantially. But they keep their cool, they are polite and they do the right thing. Thank God for them now. I only wish they would ask her to sit in their car. I ask her again and again if she wants to sit but she doesn't, she just stays at the scene slightly shaken and shell-shocked. She lifts her black pants to check her leg which is aching but can't see anything underneath her knee-high stockings. I wear the same things to work-funny how that is. She reaches to her back often and realizes that it hurts from falling on her bottom. That's the word she uses. It's so quaint, so delicate and polite. How funny.

I drive home, our evening understandably cut short by the incident. My roomate tells me the young lady lives on our street. In fact, she lives on our block. How funny. How ironic. We three roomates, who live in a neighborhood where we are already not welcomed, where the up-and-coming-ness of the street makes it so that we can afford a nice townhouse and our neighbors live in low-income housing. How unfortunate.

And here I am, at 2am morphing into 4am, rethinking the events and the sequence of the crash, thinking, how funny, how unfortunate. My lips, ears and scalp are throbbing, as they often are when I am stressed and they itch and they burn.


Kingston Girl said...

Thanks to beaver, I've just realised your blog haitus is over!

It really shakes you up when something like that happens, I hope the girl is ok although I'm sure she'll have a very brusied bottom... and I hope you all get over the shock soon

Barbara said...

A close call of almost hitting a Hispanic bicyclist about 15 years ago flashes before my eyes every time I approach that intersection. Maybe it's the near misses that make us better drivers, better bicyclists. I'm relieved to know the woman didn't suffer serious injury.

Anonymous said...


I had a car accident this summer - actually, the car was totalled. I never blogged about it because it was a traumatic experience. Thank god, noone got seriously injured. (and no, I am not a crazy driver person - it was a circumstancial thing)

I have serious issues with driving now though. I feel you. Such incidents are traumatic. Thankfully, yours seems to be of lessened impact.

Chin up. Maybe taking some soup or something to your neighbour would be nice. But I know that you are delicate to think of such attentions on your own.



Victoria said...

I'm sorry to hear-- sorry for her, and sorry for you.
The worst kind of stress is the kind that is caused by your lifestyle; it's just a feeling that never really goes away. I hope you will feel better soon and have a relaxing Thanksgiving.
When I'm stressed out I scratch my face and scalp until they bleed. Then I pick at the scabs. I had no idea you did this too (although perhaps not to my extent).

Black River Eagle said...

Again it is good to see you back and well and writing again at your blog. While reading this story I couldn't help but thinking about stories you once told (or was it Carl the Pilot?) about traffic accidents involving pedestrians in Kinshasa. I'd say your roommate got off lightly in comparison. It's good that the young lady did not get seriously hurt.

BTW: Did you read the recent Newsweek November 13th special report on the DRC? See the Newsweek web exclusive "Congo's Wounds of War: More Vicious than Rape" by Rod Nordland.

I can't imagine why someone who has experience with these type of problems in Africa would be looking for work in my country? You should be turning down job offers, not looking for them. What the Hell has happened to my country since I've been gone?

Nonetheless, good luck with your life back there in D.C. and with your future goals in life.

P.S. Sorry about the "snakepit" reference in an earlier comment. That was unfair and only applies to Capitol Hill, the White House, and related environs surrounding our beloved Capitol City.

007 in Africa said...

BRE, the snakepit reference was very apt. Don't apologize for it :) It's just that I'm a mangoose so snakes don't bother me :)

Thanks Kingaton Girl, Barbara, Beaver, and Victoria for your nice words.