Yesterday i was driving along the highway headed to meet some friends when the car in front of me suddenly veered sideways. I had a split second to think, “what’s gotten into him?” And then i saw why he’d done what he did. There was a pair of headlights staring straight at me. His car was a foot into his own direction of traffic but mostly in our lane, drifting further over and traveling at roughly 75 mph straight at me. We were destined for a head on collision at highway speeds. There was literally only a fraction of a second to recognize the situation i was in. No thought happened. Muscle memory kicked in and i veered hard to the right, nearly flipping the car to avoid him. Behind me a chain reaction happened. I did not see the entirety of it. I was trying to regain control of my vehicle which was swerving wildly in a zig zag. Behind me i heard the screeching of brakes and the noise of tires leaving rubber on the road as they tried to execute an immediate stop from highway speeds. When i looked in the mirror behind me there was a gaggle of oddly faced cars left in the wake of this wrong way driver who just got so lucky that every one of us was skilled and alert enough to make decisions in a fraction of a second to avoid the threat that had been concealed by the view of the car in front of them. I wanted to get out of the car and relinquish the job of driving, check on the other drivers, hug the other drivers, thank the Lord for our lives, but this was the highway the sheep had been on weeks earlier. It was a one lane winding highway with straight stretches of it in between…best not to be idle on it for long. I dont remember if i stopped or just slowed way down. The next thing i remember is thinking, “this is not a good place to be idle…must get moving…must get moving.” I looked down and realized i was only driving 40 mph with my foot to the floor on a 75 mph road. I may have been stopped on the road before this point. I ended up half on the shoulder and half on the road when i finally regained control of the car. Then i just guided it back into the lane and focused on getting back to the designated speed and normal driving that other drivers headed our way from behind would expect. Everyone behind me did the same. I got about half a mile before i began sobbing profusely and had to pull off the road. I’m still not sure what exactly the crying was about. I couldn’t stop it. I called my friend and tried to tell her i was going to turn around and go home, that this encounter was too much excitement for one day and i wasnt going to make it to the gathering, but she couldnt understand me through all the crying i was doing, which again, i wasnt sure why i was doing. She thought i was upset because i couldn’t find the turn…which was also happening…i hadnt been to my friend’s house in a while, daylight savings time had happened, and i couldnt identify the landmark tree to the unnamed gravel road in the dusk light. She pulled her car out onto the edge of the gravel road and told me to look for her. I found her car and headed to the gathering. Everyone was hugging and smiling and i was just sort of stunned. My friend explained to everybody that i’d narrowly avoided a head on with a wrong way driver and for whatever asinine reason i began crying again. What in the ****? People told me, “well im sure that was scary honey!” I remember thinking at the time that they were right. I don’t remember feeling that way now. I dont remember that split second moment. Its like ive locked it away because i dont want to deal with it but i remember at the time of their questions thinking that this sudden giant object in the middle of my windshield with only a fraction of a second to react was the scariest thing i’d ever seen. It was concealed from view by the car in front of me so i only saw the danger when the automobile one car length ahead suddenly veered hard to the right and revealed a vehicle headed straight for me. When i say there was no thought im not kidding. I didnt even have time to think “oh shit!” All that happened was my finely tuned “always ready for shit to pop off” spidey skills kicked in and my muscles moved to avoid impact.
I’m sure that scared me because i remember answering the suggestion that it had with an emphatic head nod, so it must’ve but i think the absolute lack of control that is not having time to even form a thought about the situation before it’s over…i think that likely also contributed to the sobbing. I didn’t understand exactly how my body had pulled off missing the vehicle when my brain hadn’t computed the scene yet. I felt like the whole universe was out of my control in that split second, like i was in charge and in command of nothing. Most people would have viewed survival and maintaining the car as a win win in the situation…Success. However, the fact that my brain had not made a move by the time the situation was decided and executed…that was not a win for me. It was concerning and numbing. It made me feel very small, insignificant, and fragile. For a split second i realized that my control freak self was not in charge of any fraction of the universe and there were things outside of my power to think through or pray about that happened whether or not i wanted or intended to have a say in them. It’s a different concept to recognize on paper that you’re going to die some day than it is to feel it in your bones for a moment.
I was not myself last night. I tried to socialize but i lacked all my usual happiness and calm. I felt a bit raw and oddly emotional. I pulled it together to participate in our gathering and then when people started leaving i went with the early crowd. I slept like i hadn’t slept in years. I didnt turn the lights out, brush my teeth, or even put the food away. I crashed hard and woke up an hour before dawn the next day. I had put Sili in the bed with me to cuddle and that’s exactly what she did. When i woke it was near freezing and raining outside. It was dark and all you could hear was the pitter patter of rain on the tin roof. Sili was cuddled up to me. I pulled the blankets around her and buried my face in her fur. She was warm and smelled like unwashed dusty dog. She licked my face and nudged me with her nose. I snuggled down into the covers and pulled her closer. In Sili’s fur i hid from the world.
I wasn’t ready to get up today. I felt like i was in a computer game and had narrowly escaped sniper fire. I was now hiding in my bunker refusing to chance it again. I laid there and wondered why i hadn’t immediately given God the credit. Why did i not have the feeling that God had saved me? The fact that i had made movements in a fraction of a second before my brain had computed the sudden scene in the windshield spoke to the obvious reality that it wasnt me making decisions. Why did i not immediately feel like i had been rescued by a higher power? But i felt none of the well of faith i had been blanketed in when i spun the car out trying to avoid an axis deer and landed in a ditch facing an illuminated church sign. I felt no comfort, no holy spirit…just emptiness. It was as if my soul was filled with the same sensation that envelopes the hand when you touch cold steel. I couldn’t make sense of the experience or my feelings surrounding it and so i buried it in the depths of my memory and covered it with clutter never to be retrieved. This was probably not the most healthy method of sussing out my problems and so i remained in bed. How unsettling a moment it is when you realize exactly how little input you have on reality. We really are all just here until our bell rings and then we’re not. I am a deeply religious Christian and my faith that a higher power with a plan for all of us exists is unchanged but i’d be lying if i said i felt anything spiritual in that moment. I neither thought nor felt anything. It just happened, without me.