Descriptions and images may be triggering to certain individuals. Reader discretion is advised.
“This guy needs to stay in his own lane,” Charlise said.
I looked up from the bricks out the passenger window, glanced briefly at OkCupid on my phone, and saw a car coming straight for us. Charlise turned the steering wheel in the opposite direction, but there wasn’t enough time.
It looked like the oncoming car could have swerved, but it hit us instead.
Oh. We just got hit. No big: I’d been in a fender bender before.
Unlike the fender bender, we continued moving after the initial “bump”. There was no bump; we just kept wobbling until we finally stopped, my eyes wide open.
Are those my glasses?
Those are definitely my glasses.
Shit. The airbag. My glasses hit the airbag before falling down.
My phone isn’t in my hand. Where’s my phone? Where the fuck did my phone go? I’m gonna die without my phone.
Are we gonna flip? Why are we wobbling so much? We’re definitely gonna flip. I don’t want to flip.
Are we gonna hit the wall? What if we hit the wall? I’m claustrophobic.
You know that commercial about texting and driving that features a slow motion scene of what happens inside the vehicle? That’s what it felt like, but the whole thing happened really quickly.
Charlise was in the driver seat, two-year-old Solara behind her. I was in the passenger seat, four-month-old Iah behind me.
The van stabilized. We came to. I leaned over, picked up my glasses, and started to investigate them.
I put my glasses on and looked at the floorboard for my phone, but found hers in three pieces: phone, rubber part of case, plastic part of case.
Charlise: Get the baby!
I saw the airbag before me, knew it was there, but at the same time, I wasn’t aware at all. I saw smoke coming up from it. It smelled of burning rubber, like when you accidentally threw rubber into a burn pit because you lived on a farm and there was no trash pickup.
Charlise: Liz! Get the baby! Get out!
It’s like it didn’t register the first few times, even though I heard her clearly. Get the baby? The babies? Why do I need to get them? The smell of smoke registered in my head, and that conclusion brought on a new fear: Could we get out before the van caught fire and exploded?
Did time even exist?
I opened my door, just enough for me to get out and it to stay open, landed on my feet. I felt nothing but the cold, crisp air. I grabbed Charlise’s phone and its parts. I slid open Iah’s door, unlatched her, greeted her to make sure she was okay, and dropped Charlise’s three-part phone into the car seat, atop the muslin blanket covering Iah.
Charlise, panicked, said, “I can’t get this fucking door open!”
I told her I’d crawl over and get her once I set Iah down, but by that time, Char had opened the door and was giving me Solara. She told me to stay with the babies, and I said I couldn’t find my phone.
She went back to and came back from the van, handed me my phone, and told to me call hers. I looked for her number in my contacts and started calling it, only for her to say, “Never mind, I found it.” It was in the car seat with Iah, where I had placed it.
A woman in scrubs across the street, who was going the other direction, had parked her car and was crossing the street. I think she asked if we were okay, and I think I said yes, but I don’t know for sure.
I held Solara until she wasn’t crying anymore, made sure she was okay, and then went over to make sure Iah — who was fussy — was okay. I crouched down and set Solara on the ground next to me. The woman was nearby then — Charlise was taking pictures — and picked Solara up, saying, “Let’s not put you on the ground.” It was then that I noticed she was barefoot and that the ground was covered in debris.
Despite being subconsciously aware of dangers, the dangers didn’t actually hit me.
I don’t remember how, but Iah was moved further from the van and still close to the wall. Charlise finished taking the photos, and Iah started screaming. I asked Charlise if I could take her out of her car seat, and she said yes, that she’d take her.
Once it was just me, I started having a panic attack. Thinking back to it now, I think I was hysterical. I had an asthma cough, my asthma was acting up, I couldn’t stop shaking, I had to remind myself to breathe, I kept mentally telling myself about the wrinkly white brick wall, and I worried about work.
The last store I worked at (2012), I had to practically kill myself to work there. It was every man for themselves, and no one cared about you unless you were going to be working — and even then, nobody actually cared, because they just wanted to make money.
A man in scrubs arrived, with the man from the car running behind him. He may have checked the other guy, I’m not sure. The guy running up had this concerned look on his face, but his countenance changed to terrified when he saw the babies — that no, he hadn’t just hit two adult women, but that he’d hit a family. Like somehow it’s different if you hit more than just an adult. Which, really, it kind of is. I guess. I don’t know.
Guy: Man, I think I slipped on something in the road — like an oil spill or water or something.
I looked out at the road, and there were darker spots on the road, but 1) who’s to say that’s not from the vehicles colliding, and 2) that could literally have just been old spots that just…dried darker.
The woman, whose scrubs said “Shawna” under the logo, explained to him that there are signs about this turn and how it gets slippery when cold and wet, and how the signs say to slow down. I presumed she saw through his bullshit.
So, because Saturday, December 20, 2019 was supposed to be my second day of orientation training at the computer, and I was supposed to be there at 11am until 8pm, and I had approximately five more hours of computer courses to complete, I called Walmart. I didn’t have the attendance phone number on me or my Walmart Identification Number (WIN) yet, so of course it was the general number available on Google Maps. That’s literally how I found it.
Customer Service (CS): [answers]
Me: Hi, um, I-I-I’m supposed to work today, but I-I-it’s not…I don’t think it’s going happen. I’m new, still training, can you please forward me to HR?
Forwarded. I let the line ring for what felt like five minutes, but I have no idea how much time had passed.
Paramedics arrived and set out cones on each side of us. I’m surmising, due to the blind spots around this bend, more police than we had seen arrived and blocked off the road further down and/or redirected traffic.
I hung up, called back.
Customer Service (CS) answers again.
Me: Hi, I just called, HR didn’t answer. I don’t think she’s there, and I don’t have a lot of time. I’m new, I work there, my name is Jane — J-A-N-E — Lively — L-I-H…no, L-I-V-E…L-Y — a-and I-I don’t think I’m going to make it in today, I…I don’t…our van is totaled, there’s…no way it’s…it’s so totaled… So I…I don’t think I’m gonna make it…in…I don’t think I can make it. There’s…the van is totaled, and there’s-there’s literally a tire right here next to me, and I-I just — I don’t think it’s going to happen for me today, I don’t have a car, I-I-I don’t know. I-I don’t know anything right now. I…[hacking coughs]
CS: Okay, baby, it’s okay. I’ll let her know.
I hung up. Panicked more. Went back to Shawna and Solara, thanked Shawna for taking the toddler who is my cousin but who calls me “Mama” and knew that what just happened was not supposed to happen, who I’ve been around ever since she was born.
I was quite the thanker. I typically thank people in general, but I was extra thank-y that day.
My panic attack didn’t stop, even though I wanted it to. I couldn’t quit coughing, couldn’t focus my breathing… Shawna placed a hand on my arm and said, “Shh, you’re okay,” and I tried to get a handle on myself. Shawna said to look at “the handsome firemen”, who arrived, because maybe I’ll see “a hot one”.
I laughed, said it’s unlikely. More quietly, because not everyone is as accepting, I said that I actually like women. I had to repeat myself, and Shawna chuckled, saying, “Well, you never know!” It was a good distraction for me, personally, because I think it somewhat helped even if I was coming out to a stranger for the first time ever, in person, face-to-face.
The rest of it is more jumbled a memory than everything above. I know what happened, because I remember it vividly, because it’s the day after that I’m writing this, I just don’t know in what particular order it all happened:
Paramedics photographed van, assessing damage. They asked if everyone was wearing seat belts, whether the babies were in car seats, and which direction the car seats were facing.
Paramedics also checked us out; Charlise and Shawna pointed to me, because I wasn’t breathing right. My asthma was acting up, and I couldn’t stop coughing. I was afraid I was going to pee my pants, because if I cough too hard, I will pee; and if I cough harder, I will vomit. Also, I didn’t want to wet my pants in front of everyone, thankyouverymuch.
I was asked where I was sitting and whether I was wearing a seat belt, and the paramedic left to take pictures.
Police arrived, asked questions. They made sure everyone was wearing seat belts, the babies were in their car seats, and that they hadn’t been front-facing.
Paramedics took us to the ambulance and seemed to want to get us to the hospital as soon as possible. They took my breathing issues seriously, though I failed to comprehend why at the time. I kept coughing and had my blood pressure and pulse tested. I was like, “Is this because I keep coughing?” because I thought I could fix that, even though I couldn’t, because I just…couldn’t quit fucking coughing.
I think I heard one paramedic say the oxygen was ready if I needed it, and all I could think was, “Fucking hell. I’m totally fine. I feel fine. Everyone is FINE.”
I’m not a Friends fan, but this was me:
The paramedic who looked most like my last-ever ex-boyfriend, Chris G., is the one who attended to me most, like I was his dedicated patient, and I was just like, There’s a joke in here somewhere, but I don’t know what it is and also I don’t know what jokes are right now?
I was dizzy, shaky and giddy. The backdoor opened; it may have been a fireman who stood there and asked one of the ambulance guys (there were two in there) if they wanted so-and-so to drive because “it’s a lot of people”. I don’t know how that went, because I actually started to zone out a little bit. Asthma attacks disorient me, or maybe it was because of the wreck.
Mine and Charlise’s personal information was taken, along with our allergies and medical history and shit. I couldn’t focus well on what was happening, or remember much about myself, but I had my driver’s license, and even my Social Security card — the latter because I’d needed it for my new job paperwork — and got to where I just gave everyone those two things to copy. My address, I had in my phone, and wound up giving it to people because I realized I couldn’t spell my fucking street name.
I’d had Charlise take my phone and text my dad to let him know about the wreck. Solara had her eyes on me the whole time. There was a shocking point, actually, where she wouldn’t come to me or Charlise — probably because she, too, was in shock and knew we were both hurt? I’m not sure. Maybe there’s some kind of toddler instincts going on.
We get to the hospital, in triage, and they separate us. For some reason, I expected us to all get to be in the same room, since family and shit, but nope. This is not Grey’s Anatomy, after all. (Did you think I was gonna share about my ER visit without a GA reference??)
In my room, I realized I had to pee, which I was allowed to do after changing into a gown. Regulations, I guess. To be on the safe side, I asked if they needed a urine test since I had to pee anyway and would rather not wait to do so.
I walked briskly to the restroom, grabbed a packaged urine test from the bin like I owned it, and went into the bathroom. Instant regret: The picture instructions were confusing as fuck. I contemplated whether I wanted to ask for help, but inevitably selected to do so because I really didn’t want to have to do another urine test.
Two guys were watching a TV behind the nurse’s station — I don’t know what was on it, but I think it was a sports game. I walked up to them and asked if they could help me. Michael Welch’s doppelgänger said, “Yes,” in this I-was-just-laughing tone.
Me: I was told to just grab one of these, but I don’t…I don’t fucking know how to do this.
I pointed to the visual instructions.
Doppelgänger: Oh, that’s for us, so…
Me: Okay, got it.
I completed the test and set it on a tray inside my room. I’d positioned it inside its package so it was as sanitary as possible. Even when I’m in shock, I’m still a germaphobe.
Either a nurse or doctor came in, and I decided to tell him I’m autistic — I’d contemplated it in the bathroom — because my previous ER experiences had been shit and I like to know what’s going on. Because I don’t do surprises.
It was worth it, because from then on, any and all procedures were explained to me and they were patient.
At the hospital, I got a breathing treatment and chest x-rays. I came out to the woman who did my x-rays, too, because she asked if I was sure I wasn’t pregnant; and I’d responded that I’m tokophobic…and also a lesbian.
I got pulled into the same lawsuit case as Charlise because I needed my medical bills to be paid. Because we were injured. Because lots of reasons. Initial settlement offer was extremely low, offered outside of attorneys.
Through a friend, she’d been referred to someone with no hourly lawyer fees, and they only get paid if they win a case — which means they take on the cases they know they’ll win.
One of the documents we signed was a Social Media Agreement, which prevented us from discussing the accident on social media. A few of the clauses recommended me to immediately make my social profiles private, and insisted I be wary of friend/follow requests and refrain from posting any case/injury details.
The thing about not really being a hobby blogger is that you can’t make your blog and social profiles private without risking integrity, especially when you don’t know how long they’ll have to remain private.
So I just…didn’t blog about it and lost a lot of interest in blogging as a result, because I couldn’t share what was actually on my mind.
My injuries included a concussion; misalignment to the right and a spinal disc injury I can’t remember the name of; previous pain and injuries aggravated; sprained left shoulder, back, knees and ankles; and whiplash.
I spent the bulk of 2020 being in tremendous pain. There are some days, weeks and months when I feel the same way I did the night of the accident.
The events of my car accident were written within a few days after it happened. Grammar errors were fixed, photos added and post published. Legal name was changed to what I’m changing it to. The Friends reference was also added.
I always knew I was going to publish it — almost two years of my fucking life that I couldn’t tell many people about? Of course I was going to publish it.
I just had to wait for my case to end so I could share my story. 👀
This near-death-like experience rocked me. I imagined how I would have been buried — some stupid, frilly, white dress celebrating my youthfulness — and talked about amongst my dad’s side of the fam — some virgin Mary whose soulmate was already in Heaven — as they mourned the children I could have had with some white man who didn’t understand I’d been raised with indigenous values.
I came out to my family because of this. I’d been meaning to, but now my coming out had more purpose — you could have lost me in a car accident, but the worst-to-you thing regarding me is just that I’m a lesbian. 😉
I’ve struggled to find a balance between the urge to settle down, work for a corporation, and not attempt to pave my own way, start my own business, and truly live my life to its fullest — all because I could have died, but I survived, and after all the hell I’ve been through in my life, I just wanted shit to be easy. I didn’t want to complicate anything.
So I did that. I went with the flow. Thing is, the flow doesn’t last for long when every inch of yourself is fighting against it. Now, I’m working to pave my own way. I don’t know what the hell that looks like, but it doesn’t look anything like the way things are now.
I almost died, and all I felt was disappointment in myself. Sure, I wondered what would come of this fucking blog — likely be forgotten, disappear into the e-abyss, and thought of only in passing — because I knew my family would never put forth the time to post a fucking note about a death of mine. But most of all, I was disappointed that I had spent so much time helping other people rise to the top and no time investing in my own success, making my own dreams come true.
I’d let people dress me, photograph me, make me pose however they fucking wanted to like I was their own personal life-sized doll well after I stopped getting paid for it.
Where was I in all of that? In childhood photos, I see a girl with a butchered haircut she didn’t want, wearing clothes other people picked out for her. For years, this body did what so-and-so allowed it to do, claimed the personality and behavior of what its abuser told everyone it had, and sought only to color inside the lines life created — all for what? because it sure as hell was not a life well-lived.
I almost died, and the trauma of the tragedy that was this car accident is not something I can just get over, check or no check. I’m not the kind of person who can live her life ignoring her trauma — it’s not even healthy.
I almost died.
That fucking happened.
There is no fucking inspiration porn from it.
‘Twas a beautiful day, and I’d said that I was finally at a point in my life where things were turning up and I was doing great without my mom in it. The experience solidified my decision to keep my mom out of my life. I lapsed in eating disorder recovery; the pain and medication reduced my appetite.
It’s not romantic.
It’s just a fucking thing that happened to me.
The road was cleaned up quickly; going on it after the fact triggered flashbacks — adding on to my preexisting PTSD — but there was no evidence that we ever had the crash at all. It felt isolating, being the kind of person who only heals when she doesn’t have to keep her trauma from the world. I grew up in the environment of keep-it-in-the-family.
A car accident stole two years of my fucking life.
I faced a whole new side of ableism and felt limited in regard to doing what I wanted to do, just because of how ableism works. Just because someone doesn’t always need a wheelchair doesn’t mean they don’t need it at all or are not disabled. You never know what’s going on with a person. Maybe they’re overexerting themselves to prove their worth because you mistakenly view them as worthless, lazy individuals.
I spent much of 2020 fighting for my right for a job adjustment — which, unlike job accommodations, do not inherently require documentation — approved by multiple managers because the simple change of sitting on a stool instead of standing for more than an hour did not affect my ability to count customers entering and exiting the store, because a front-end manager saw my disability as fucking laziness. 🙄
What does a lifestyle blogger blog about when she can’t blog about her current life for two years, in all honesty?? I DON’T KNOW.
I lost interest, motivation, passion, inspiration. I can’t blog well without putting personal experience into it. I can’t share pain-relieving methods I’m using or stretches that make my neck, back, arm and ankle sprains hurt less.
For two years of my life, I couldn’t share much of myself with anyone.
Now I can. ✨
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