In retrospect, she knew she was in big trouble as soon as she felt the first inkling of the slide. Call in whatever you want: deja vue, premonition, a dream....whatever you call it, she'd already seen it. Seen herself, the truck, the color of the light....she'd seen it already. She just thought she'd be the passenger, not the driver, and she thought she'd die.
She'd been in a good mood that morning; she'd cleaned the kitchen and had decided to go get a manicure for a treat. She'd lost some weight recently and was feeling, in general, better about herself. More positive. Attractive, even. Her husband was in the Arctic Circle, working, and she'd gone through a period of ' I can't cope with 3 kids by myself' blues in the months after his departure, but they were 1/4 of the way through and she was getting into her groove.
It was chilly when she left, but nowhere near as cold as it was when she started out home. The temperature had dropped what felt like 20 degrees in the hour she'd been in the store, and the sky was what she called 'South Dakota grey' - a color that usually indicated a sky full of snow and an incoming storm. She decided to head home, thinking that the schools might let out early, not wanting to miss her kids getting off the bus.
As it turned out, she WOULD miss them, but not because school let out early.
She'd driven South Dakota roads for 8 years by then and knew what to expect. She put her Cherokee into 4 wheel drive, kept the speed under 45 and made sure she had plenty of space between her and the car in front of her. She had the radio on and was singing along with Nirvana when she felt the unmistakable twitch of the rear end.
"It's ok....it's ok....hands on the wheel, foot off the gas, don't yank, don't brake.....let it go, breathebreathebreathe...."
Only when she saw the concrete barrier of the overpass on her right did she realize that she couldn't just let the skid go. It was low, lower than the center of gravity on her Jeep, and she knew that if she let things go along she'd run a very good risk of toppling off the overpass onto the concrete 30' below. So, she did what she'd been taught to do. She tried to control the skid, turning into it, not away from it., not yanking hard, not gripping the wheel tight....being as gentle with the wheel as she would with a child.
It worked. She slid away from the barrier.....right into the median, all the way around, and ended up in the fast lane of the opposite side of the road, facing oncoming traffic.
As she was spinning on the median, she caught a glimpse of the semi barreling down the interstate out of the corner of her eye. As she slid into it's lane, her stomach dropped to her toes and every hair on her body stood on end in anticipation.
"Just hold on, just hold on, just hold on ohfuckohfuckohfuckthisisgonnabebadohmybabiesmybabies........"
The sound of metal crunching and glass breaking and rubber and concrete creating heat together was the only thing she remembered of the impact. When the world stopped spinning, she remembered looking for the hood of the Jeep and not seeing it, not seeing anything out of the windshield and not being able to understand where the front end of her truck was. She looked down and saw her airbag in her lap, smeared with blood and instinctively put her hands to her face. When they came away bloodied, she was shocked enough to realize that she was hurt and needed to call for help. As she reached into her pocket for her cell phone, she started taking stock of her body and what it was telling her: neck hurts, both shoulders hurt but the left is really fucking sore, chest is fucking killing me, back hurts, pissed my pants and my belly hurts, face hurts, legs hur...chest....chest hurts...........oh fuck, don't let me be pinned. Please. I've got to get out of here. Please. Someone help me. Please.
"911, what is your emergency?" said the mundane flat voice.
"This is Officer NinjaMedic with xxxxxx xxxxxx, I've been involved in a front end collision with a semi on Interstate 90 at approximately mile marker xxxxx and I'm hurt. Can you send a patrol officer by and start a rescue unit for me?......my chest hurts and I'm ha......having a hard time......I don't feel so good. Really, I don't feel.....don't feel....feel like I'm gonna faint...tell the rescue.....tell them th........aortic dissec.....aorta.....help me. My babies. My babies..."
*I can't write any more today, it's giving me too much grief to think about it. It's almost 5 years now, but it seems like it's just yesterday, and having this surgery on thursday to fix my shoulder -the one that I hurt in the wreck - is fucking with me too. I'll be back tomorrow, I promise. However, you all know I didn't die, 'cause I'm here to tell you about it*.