I was nearly in another car wreck today.
I had a carpool’s worth of kids in the back (I always have a carpoolsworth of kids) and we were negotiating our way down Ford Parkway, across the high span over the churning ice chunks of the Mississippi, and along the tight curve where the bridge fits against the riverbank. We were moving slowly, hemmed in my other cars moving slowly, but the traffic moving opposite us skated along the curve, their rear ends fishtailing in a wild joy of motion, the thrill of chaos.
I found it annoying.
I found it irritating.
And I was afraid. We inched forward a little more.
And then, I saw the car.
It was, of course an SUV. Drivers of SUV’s in my state are notorious for failing to notice the clues of their surroundings, for failing to mitigate their driving behavior as the weather spits snow or wind or rain. This car – it was the color of pearls – took the curve too fast and blossomed into a slide.
And it was beautiful.
It moved at an angle, its full, broad side swallowing the road ahead of it, plumes of salty snow unfurling around its wheels like banners.
It was headed right for us. I couldn’t move. I say this without rhetoric – though, even if I wanted to move, I doubt that I would have been able to do so. My hands gripped the wheel. My heart leaped at this vision of motion and power and grace. The poetry of fear and violence.
I could see the face of the man who was about to hit us. He was young and beautiful. (Of course he was young. Of course he was beautiful. Carelessness is the birthright for the young and beautiful.) His fingers were as white as bone, his mouth was soft and open. His eyes had snapped to wide, round stones. They did not blink. His gaze hooked into my own.
I’m sorry, said his wide, round eyes.
I know, said the tight muscles in my set, fearful face. I braced myself for the hit.
It didn’t come.
If it was a fortuitous patch of ice, or a handy chunk of snow, or a well timed jerk on the wheel, or simply the mechanations of a Universe not currently set for my own destruction, I will never know. What I do know is this: the rump of the car shuddered sweetly, then swung the other way, sending the car spinning in place. Despite the heavy traffic, despite the ice, it spun, righted itself, and continued on its way, without hitting a soul.
I could feel him breathing. I could feel his breath in my mouth and my breath in his. And if we ever meet, it will be like meeting a long-lost relative – a twin separated at birth. I know you. I have always known you. I will always know you.
I blew my fear away, clouding the window next to me, feeling the hum of my car’s motor, the regularity of its gears. I flicked my eyes to the rear-view mirror.
“Everything okay back there?” I asked.
The children looked up from their books and their homework and their wordfinds and their hangman games.
“Of course it is,” they said, the assumption of safety glossing their beautiful faces. “Why wouldn’t it be?”