On vacation a while back, we were driving along a stretch of I-26 about an hour outside of Charleston, South Carolina, on our way to see my stepson (from my first marriage).
Going 75 MPH (in that typical american way where people go 5 mph over the speed limit, figuring no cop will stop them for 5 measly miles per hour), we’ve got an old Cat Stevens CD on, and we’re both singing.
Suddenly, the hubster stops singing, and says Watch out.
I look ahead to see an old blue car – a Mustang, I think – about four car lengths ahead of us, trailing a wide line of black rubber: a blown tire. First it weaves across the middle lane, back into ours, then between the two lanes, and then, it stops.
The hubster steps on the breaks, and instinctively I look in the passenger side mirror to see a brown SUV barreling down behind us. Then – in what probably took only seconds – my body gets warm, time feels liquid, and I look over at the hubster, then out at the mirror again, and I’m thinking: We’re going to get hit; holy shit, we’re going to be hit … and I brace for impact.
Then, almost magically, the blown-tire car inches itself off the road, and the hubster slams his foot on the gas, as we lurch ahead, and out of the way of the SUV, still barreling down on us. Safe.
But then I hear a screech, and I turn to see that the SUV has swerved, clearly thinking that they were about to hit us (as they almost did) … and as we pull farther ahead, it rocks up on two wheels … and flips.
And flips again.
A bicycle on the back flies away; side mirrors crack off; metal crashes and crunches.
And then it flips one more time before it lands with a bang on its side, and stops in the middle of the road.
We pull over and I’m still having something of an out of body experience, but I dig in my purse and dial 911. Amazingly, the operator says: About a mile east of the 95 interchange?
I was not the first to call. Someone behind the SUV maybe?
It didn’t matter: The paramedics are on their way, she told me.
They did come, and fast. Police too.
Once they arrived, the hubster reminded me that we had dinner plans with the stepson, and it might be a good idea if we got on our way.
What? We can’t leave, I thought. I have to stay; have to help somehow.
But the hubster – a little bit Buddhist, and a lot practical – reminds me that the experts were there to take care of things, and there was really nothing we could do.
I resist. He goes all Buddah-ish as I stand by the car, thinking that the vibes I’m sending are helping. You can’t do anything he says.
Finally, I give up resisting, and we leave.
And I have no idea what happened to the people in the brown SUV.
Once we got to our hotel in Charleston, I search and search online to see if there was news of the accident. The hubster asks me how this obsessing serves me … Can you do anything? he says. And I know I can’t.
But in this instance, I’m pissed at his practical, Buddha self, and I wish we had stayed, even though I know he’s right, and we couldn’t have done anything, really.
But it could have been us, I think. It almost was. A split second (and his quick acceleration) is all that saved us.
I can’t seem to shake the randomness, the luck, the freakiness of it.
I still feeling a connection to those anonymous people in the brown SUV, and I can’t shake it.
I know I’m caught in some crazy mind-spiral obsessing about things that I can’t know, don’t know, and can’t control. But that moment … that one. time-stopping. moment. when I anticipated impact, saw it coming, and braced … it just blew by, and we were safe.
But that very same moment is the one that flipped the people in the brown SUV over and over and over again. And I wish there was some way I could find out if they are OK.
I feel connected, split open, vulnerable, and grateful.