mono no aware
Well, yesterday may have been my last day ever with Junko, but I'll talk about that later.
On the way to Vegas, having driven only 20 miles on the interstate, I encountered the worst accident I have ever seen. Or maybe it was just the worst accident I have ever seen close up. I got there after it happened but before the battalion of flashing help arrived to direct people around the mess. The car was upside down in the right lane, and glass and bumpers and the contents of the trunk were strewn across the left lane, forcing me to stop. I have a little training in emergency medicine, so I got out to see if there was anything I could do to help. The cab was completely smashed in over the backseat- if anyone was sitting back there they were almost definitely dead. The driver was a woman- not young not old- I couldn’t tell the exact age. She was still strapped into her seat, with her long, wavy brown hair and bloodstained arms hanging straight down, unmoving. Dead. I’d seen bodies at funerals before, but this was the first time I ever saw a body fresh off a violent death.
Three or four people with latex gloves and some basic equipment were already on the scene, and seemed to have things under control. There was a girl on the ground wrapped in a blanket, with someone holding her head to prevent further damage in the event she had a spinal injury. At least she was alive. I imagine she was in the front passenger seat… Anyway, since the situation seemed to be under control, I decided to leave. I wonder now if I should have asked the first responders or whoever they were if there was anything I could do to help. Would they have been appreciative and perhaps even given me something to do, or would they have curtly told me to go away?
As I was backing up to get to the last exit and go around the accident, the ambulances and police and fire trucks arrived. As I was dodging them in reverse I scraped the side of my car on one of the reflective posts on the side of the road.
I thought about how it could have happened. Did she fall asleep and then jerk the wheel upon awakening, flipping the car? Did someone cut her off or move into her lane while she was still there, surprising her into a quick and deadly spin of the wheel? It’s so easy to die while driving on the freeway. We take our lives in our hands and breathe in Death’s face whenever we do. We tend to forget just how dangerous it really is.
I thought about the woman and the blanketed girl. When they got in the car to go to wherever they were going, they probably didn’t think anything of it. Just a normal, quotidian freeway trip. But now, out of nowhere, the woman is dead and the girl’s life will never be the same, assuming she doesn’t die of injuries she received… And I thought- what if that had been my mother or my sister or my girlfriend who just died there? And of course, she was someone’s daughter, someone’s sister, probably someone’s wife, perhaps the girl’s mother…
Deaths like this happen constantly. It’s our trade-off for being able to travel long distances quickly and cheaply. We sacrifice a small percentage of the population, chosen somewhat randomly, to our automobile gods, and in exchange they take the rest of us where we want to go. You never know when your number might come up and you will be called upon to give your life to Transportation. We see accidents like this rarely, and they happen to people we personally know even more rarely, and thus we assume, perhaps correctly, that we will never be the winners of that lottery.
And though deaths like this are occurring constantly, that doesn’t bother us. We accept the risk. Only the deaths of those directly involved in our own lives, or deaths whose occurrence we witness, really seem to affect us. We don’t much care about the deaths of people we don’t know. If it’s not right in front of us, it doesn’t really concern us. But if we were to accept the emotional impact of all these deaths, we would no longer be able to live. Death is a part of life; death shouldn’t stop us from living.
Sometimes these random deaths get to me. A little over three years ago (about a year before I started this diaryland gig), at a time in my life when my emotions were totally out of control, I read about a local sixteen-year old girl who had died in a car accident. She was going to lunch with some friends, and the driver pulled out into oncoming traffic when he shouldn’t have. The car was broad-sided, and she died after arriving at the hospital. I could think of nothing else but this girl and her death for about a week. Why this girl? Why this young, vibrant, happy girl, full of potential? Why not me as I felt I was at the time- a pathetic mess of squandered ability, barely clinging to the desire to live? And what of the driver of that car? How must he have felt? Knowing that his poor judgement killed that girl? She wasn’t even going to go with them. Some other person was originally in the passenger seat, but decided not to go, and this girl took that person’s place. How must that person, the one who should have been there, have felt? Anybody can die at any time- it’s a rule of life… I devoted several days of journal entries to that subject alone, cut out all the articles on it, and very nearly went to the girl’s funeral. And why did this random death, of all the random deaths that are constantly occurring, get to me so much? Young vibrant classmates of mine had died in car wrecks in high school. A friend of mine died of cancer when we were 15. But none of these deaths affected me as this one did. Why? Besides the fact that I was in an extremely unstable emotional state at the time, I have no idea.
Tonikaku. This entry is a lot more morbid than my normal fare- sorry. But it’s important to take time to deal with these things.
“To the world you may be just one person, but to one person you may be the world.” -Ghandi
rows of houses are bearing down on me,