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I Know You're Wondering Why I Called You Here Today....
November 15, 2000

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The Ex Car

I liked that car. I liked it a lot.

It's always awkward to come back after long absence, you know it? You always get nervous before you call that friend you haven't spoken to in months. After all, why shouldn't they resent your long absence. Won't they feel slighted? Won't they feel like you blew them off? What could you possibly say to justify such a long gap of communications?

Even when you have good reason, like the above picture shows, you never know how best to approach such a thing. So you put it off, or come up with excuses, or sometimes mean to get to it, but life intervenes.

Well, I've had a full dose of life since September 7, 2000, which is when I last reported to all of you.

The above is probably the most obvious case. I mean, it's clear that the car is... well, no more. And, as the damage shows pretty clearly... it was actively not fun to be in when it happened.

I was driving along on September 14, just a week after my last update. I was waiting for some pictures of the kitten to develop before updating. That day, I was driving around Ossipee, looking for an animal hospital I'd been told about that was in town. As you can probably guess, my kitten had become a large part of my life.

At this point, let me mention the kitten was not in the car with me as I was driving.

The animal hospital had told me it was near the Ossipee Courthouse, which if you're heading to Ossipee from Wolfeboro means you turn right onto Route 171. But, after a good half hour of looking, I decided they were high. Sure enough, driving to the intersection of Route 171 and Route 28, I could see the animal hospital up the way.

This was about 5 in the afternoon, on a warm, sunny, almost Autumn day. Route 28 was busy. I sat, waiting, looking both ways. To my right was a hill on a curve -- I couldn't see far along it. It's a known trouble spot. To my left was traffic. 28 had a flashing yellow. I had a stop sign.

Finally, I look to my right. Nothing. I look to the left. A gap. I start across--

Nothing doesn't mean much when you only have a couple of seconds worth of clearance in the viewing. I never saw the car that hit me. It came around that corner, speeding from all accounts. I heard the brakes and hit my own -- which saved my life. And then there was a BANG that hit like Thor's hammer. I thought I saw a flash of blue. The other car? I don't know. I never saw the other car.

I careened down Route 28, the impact enough to spin my car onto the road I wasn't travelling. Sliding down the road, I managed to steer into a ditch, as I didn't have brakes or any way to slow down or stop except the old fashioned way.

Here's a passage from a story I wrote about the accident -- written in third person because while the details are accurate, I was taking it as the launching point for a story.:

He didn't remember the car being knocked aside. He'd been going North on State Route 171 where it crossed 28. He was hit by a car going West, up towards Wolfeboro. When he next realized what was happening, he was on 28 itself, his car pitching forward, towards the left hand lane and oncoming traffic.

With a flush of adrenalin he grabbed the wheel. His left hand wouldn't grip right – two fingers wouldn't flex at all, and he absently felt something like sticks rubbing when he tried. He got enough of a hold to steer back into the right hand lane, hearing what sounded like a grinding sound. I'm dragging something, he thought absently, realizing the hood was crumpled up towards the left side of the car, blocking a small amount of his view of the road but not enough to matter.

Part of his brain knew he needed to stop the car. He needed to. His legs seemed to be working normally enough that he didn't think about them. He pushed the brake pedal and the clutch. Both flopped to the floor of the car without any resistance at all. No brakes, and no clutch. Breathing a bit harder, but still keeping control, he began to guide the car to the side of the road. Better to settle in a ditch than hit someone or die in the middle of the road. He coasted onto gravel and the beginnings of grass.

He felt himself reflexively, almost absently, pushing the brake again. It still didn't work, of course, and he realized the grass wasn't going to stop him. He began to slide down, into the ditch, still moving pretty fast. He held onto the wheel, controlling the car and trying to keep it from sliding onto its side, which it seemed in danger of doing. I wonder if the other driver is dead, he thought almost out of nowhere. He wondered who the other driver was, and if the car that'd hit him really was sky blue. He could remember sky blue.

The car was over forty-five degrees tilted, towards the right side, when he came to a stop. He'd been wondering if it would roll over by the end of it, but it didn't. He took a deep breath, and knew he was still alive but had been in a bad accident. It was all intellectual, though. His brain knew what had happened but his body felt suspended. Remote. Distant. He looked at his left hand and tried to close it, but the middle and ring fingers refused to do what they were told to. He frowned slightly, thinking he could hear a sound in the engine compartment. That couldn't be good. He reached around the partially deflated air bag (when had that happened?) and slowly, deliberately turned the ignition key off.

He looked at the crumpled hood through his windshield, which itself was unharmed. He could see parts of the engine and transmission sticking up at odd angles. He looked at it for a long moment, then looked down at his steering wheel, and the air bag that had burst from it, through the paneling. He noticed the Saturn logo was completely intact on one side, so any rescue worker who looked in the window would see it. Product placement he thought, still remotely. He looked over to the right hand side and saw the passenger side air bag had also deployed, its compartment splitting the dash open as it flipped up.

He focused on the long tear in the vinyl of the dashboard, and felt the first stirrings of emotion. Damn it – that dashboard vinyl will cost a mint to repair!

That's pretty much exactly how it happened, right down to the incongruous feeling of outrage at the torn vinyl. The other driver (female, as it turns out) was all right -- a split lip where she hit the air bag. I never met her or saw her car. They took me out on a bodyboard and left me immobilized for hours while they ran CAT scans and other tests to see the extent of my injuries.

As it turns out, I broke my hand, which is the core of why you haven't seen an entry from me for a while. Otherwise, I had a lot of side pain from the seat belt, where a hematoma had risen over bone bruises on my ribs. The pain was hideous, but not really dangerous. We weren't sure for a few days, though, so I spent about a week on a cocktail of Valium and Codeine laced Tylenol. I remember watching Dark Shadows, which is trippy to watch when you're stoned. And make no mistake, I was flying very high. So high that when we ruled out real internal damage, I stopped taking the drugs. It wasn't worth how useless they made me.

Though, it is worth noting that I was still trying to be a good manager, calling the Academy and checking in with people on a regular basis. It's just that I made no sense at all. Eileen reports that I was very funny to listen to.

Since then, I've mostly recovered. My hand is no longer broken, though the joys of physical and occupational therapy mean it'll be quite a while before it's fully normal. The ligaments and tendons aren't at all happy with what happened, and they're taking their sweet time in becoming supple again. I'll probably be arthritic in that hand as a result.

Otherwise... I've stopped flinching in traffic. I'm now (for the next couple of months) driving a 1989 Buick Century Limited. I'm healing.

And I was lucky. The kind of impact that devastates the front end of your car but leaves you safe behind the seat belt and air bag kills you instantly when it hits the passenger side door. Little aches and pains are nothing compared to death. And also understand -- I went off blood thinner medication just three weeks before. If I'd been on it when my entire chest and abdomen were turned into bruises... well, Doctor Fleet thinks I could easily have bled to death.

So consider me lucky, at least for the moment. And with health comes new, positive things. Including good things in writing. And in this journal.

For one thing -- and I'll go into depth another day -- I've made arrangements to publish the journal. The first eight months (before the Cardiomyopathy) is being collected, from April 11 to November 19 of last year. The second volume will cover the Cardiomyopathy saga, from November 21 through to my kitten's entering my life.

Which makes this the first entry of the third volume. That's pretty exciting, you know it?

Expect a moderate site redesign within the next couple of weeks, as well as honest to God journal entries. I'm back and we're back in business.

Oh, and the picture this text is surrounding? That's a nice clear baby picture of Sarah Kyriotate -- or Sarah K. or Sarah or (more often) Little Girl, Sweetheart, or "Ow, that's my broken hand!" Alternately a sweetheart and a spitfire. She's grown quite a bit since this picture, when she was roughly one handful. She's very sweet now, loving to curl up next to me when I'm sleeping.Kitty!

She didn't purr for the first few days she was home, except very rarely when you worked at it. A light buzz, nothing more. But the night I came home from the hospital, my pants literally cut open to the upper thigh, and very sore from the accident all over, Sarah crawled up onto my chest, at the center of the pain, and purred and purred, a soft massage of warmth, less than two pounds. And she's been affectionate ever since.

It has been pointed out that a week after I got a black cat, I had a car accident, and two weeks after that I had a complete hard drive failure (which is another reason this entry has been so late). Either way, she's sweet and wonderful and I'm very glad I have her.

More later -- tomorrow if I manage it -- when we'll discuss writing in depth, the Buick, Bureaucracy, and just what the Hell I've been up to for the last couple of months.

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