September 11, 2001. The Tuesday the world will never forget, joining the ranks of Sunday, December 7, 1941 and Friday, November 22, 1963. Memories stained, lives lost, effects brought on. Certainly, the world watched the end of an era – one that took away America’s safety blanket – crumble into its own pile of rubble. From grown adults to college students to elementary-aged kids, the timestamp of that day’s morph into an unforgettable day is less of a memory and more of a story.
“Where were you on 9/11?”
I’m often astounded at the basis of what’s behind trauma and the precursors leading up to it. Much like musical taste, taste in women or men and political stances, trauma sits in the thin line of subjectivity. Who’s to say a small-time wreck carries a different form of trauma over someone who, say, witnessed the Twin Towers collapsing in-person? Obviously, both of these people sit at two wildly different spectrums, but one was in a wreck and the other wasn’t, and one witnessed the Twin Towers collapse and the other didn’t. Far too often I see people downplay the ability an event has on someone for being ‘overdramatic’ or for ‘stretching it a bit thin’.
Last March, I was driving home from a day of celebrating Mardi Gras and exploring an abandoned brewery. It was Saturday, March 1, and I got back to my car at exactly 11:30 P.M. The entire week, forecasters were warning the region of a hard, freezing rain moving in overnight Saturday, but of course, I played with the weather and it played back. The storm moved in much earlier than anticipated, so I hurried my friend to drive me back, and it was then I realized just how fucked I was. Mind you, my heater had given out no more than ten days prior, and my windshield was already iced over with sprinkles. I used my durable little ice scraper to push off what I could, drive half a mile, and stop again to scrape off the same spot. Ideally, this was not going to work out once I got out of the residential neighborhood, and the entire time, I was thinking of just calling a taxi.
But I didn’t.
Somehow, I make it to the tail end of downtown, absolutely guessing where I am based on context clues. I could tell when a car was near me, if the stoplight was red or green and if someone was on the sidewalk or in the street — but that was it. To this day, I have no idea how I didn’t crash into another car. During all this, I was sweating my skin off and fearing for the worst outcome every second of the way. Traffic had now begun picking up, which of course frightened me even more, and finally “it” happened.
The lane I was in was about to merge into the middle lane, but since I didn’t know that, the car in the middle lane began pushing my car farther and farther left until my car came to a screeching halt. All I saw was the thin silhouette of something in front of me, bent over and in my mind, injured. I immediately open my car door and tell myself, “Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck. FUCK. Here we go.” I had no idea what to expect other than seeing someone hit by my car.
But, it wasn’t. It was a parking pole in front of the Hilton hotel, only slightly bent over. I wouldn’t say it was a sigh of relief, but I exerted some level of glee. Bystanders didn’t care to ask if I was okay, or what happened, but instead one of them yelled, “Nice driving, jackass!” For the first time in my life, I genuinely felt shell-shocked in every sense of the word. I had no doubt in my mind I had just ended someone’s life, or at least injured them critically.
The hotel employees were very kind to me, and since I managed to be showing the trauma in my face instead of audibly expressing it, they constantly asked me if I needed some water or a blanket or to just sit down. I had no idea what to do except look at the taco of a hood my car had now become.
From that night onward, I spent months carrying nightmares of those few seconds leading right up to crashing into the parking pole. My gut reaction, every single night, was forced back to thinking I just ended someone’s life. It made me genuinely sick to think about, and I would have to force myself to wake up. There were nights I’d have the same nightmare and wake up drenched in sweat. There were other nights I found myself clenching onto the blanket with the same force I had on the steering wheel that night.
I wouldn’t say I ever wanted to cry, because I didn’t; instead, I found myself looking at a self-made mirror, mouth agape and eyes unadjusted. Where was I supposed to look?
This past May, I wrote a post comparing my then-ongoing situation to a controlled demolition. I was the one behind the gates while everything good and delightful was caving in on itself mere feet in front of me. When I published the piece, I read it over and cried. And cried some more. And then felt ashamed for submitting something like that for the world to read. I removed my Facebook post and tweet about it, leaving whoever casually checks this blog out to find it themselves. Just like what happened in March of last year, I wanted nothing to do with it except for those who asked.
But, what I said still rings true. 2015 has been a rocky year, and I’ve not been quiet about it. Why? Why can’t I shut up about it and move on? I asked this to myself, and to loved ones, earlier today. There’s a pill for me to take and I’m not doing it. Just yesterday, I was going on about my love for the unexpected and then here I am at 12:23 A.M. blabbering on about my downfalls.
There’s a beautiful old song, “Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall” that sings with its simplicity. Shamefully, I throw a one-man pity party every time I listen to it. Some lyrics give you life, others resonate with you and xthe rest mingle amongst each other. Simply put, the debris from the leftover demolition in May is sprinkling on me and I wish nothing more than it to settle on the ground once and for all.
This year has been traumatic in the past four months. I’ve witnessed all I was surprised with fold like a deceased spider, and though none of it is anywhere as dramatic as crashing into a parked pole or an iconic landmark, the effects of what was once there cuddles with me in bed each night. It’s an unwanted itch, a mismatched pair of socks, a warm glass of beer and a picture that is just simply taking too long to load. Help in these situations are subjective mostly, and at the end of the day, I’m left wondering the greatest unanswered question:
“If not now, when?”
Until I find that answer, I’ll be sitting outside the same gates, watching clouds of debris mash together with the freezing rain storm and continue on their tribute of mockery.