Chicago, Illinois 12:04 a.m., December 4, 2004
I was half way across the street before my life changed. I couldn’t see the car, just two blinding headlights set an ungodly width apart. Their whiteness barreled toward me with no sign of slowing.
I raised my hand, shielding my eyes from the glare. In that moment, time froze. Scenes from my life played furiously through my mind, a movie on fast forward.
Only, this was no movie. This was real.
My mind raced. Despite the fury of my thoughts, I’d never known such clarity. The air smelled of frost. As the car neared, I considered sprinting forward or falling backward to avoid being hit. It was futile. The car was as wide as a school bus. So I stayed where I was — in the middle of the crosswalk — and told myself, “Stay loose.”
With my life hanging in the balance, I had nothing to lose and everything to lose. I hadn’t even begun to live, and I knew it. I was 33 living the life of a 23-year-old, a grown woman who’d always considered myself an average girl.
But I wasn’t an average girl. I was overeducated and underemployed. I meant well but rarely performed well, or so it felt. Life seemed to be an endless struggle, the product of my own making.
From my place in the crosswalk, my studio apartment taunted me cruelly from half a block away. It was so close I could see the familiar blinds in the window, yet I sensed I wouldn’t make it home. I lived on the second floor of a four-story walk-up, flanked between an angry flutist and a bartender who liked rough sex. Right then I didn’t care about any of it. I cared only about surviving whatever hid behind those headlights.
Stay loose. Stay loose.
And with the bumper upon my hip, I did stay loose, right up until my head hit the ground.
I felt the coldness of concrete against my cheek and knew I was alive. I was sprawled in the middle of Clark Street, one of Chicago’s busiest avenues. My head ached, a pain so piercing it felt like someone had taken a brick to my temple. I’d tried not to let my head hit the ground. Even as I fell, I warned myself, “Don’t let your head hit the ground.” It hit anyway, crashing to the street right after my wrist.
My wrist was broken. I could tell by the way it felt, numb, throbbing. Traffic was stopped. The light must still be red. I had a vision of being run over by an onslaught of cars. Get up. Get the fuck up.
I hobbled to my feet, as if by some supernatural force. Standing gingerly, I made eye contact with a young woman in her car. We stared at each other. She had long, red, curly hair and green eyes. I’ll never forget the emerald shade of them as they pierced my soul in disbelief. Had she seen the accident? I’ll never know. She was the first to drive off when the light turned green.