accidents

by C. H. Gorrie

 

 

Kneeling in the middle of my street, holding the unconscious man’s head, I was steeped

in the stench of cheap vodka streaming from his mouth. His shallow breathing rattled like a

failing engine as blood dribbled down his chin in splayed lines.

 

The accident happened so quickly, so abruptly, it gave me butterflies. The color of

everything paled.

 

I had just finished talking with my neighbor Simon, who was getting into his friend

Chad’s car across the street, when the man came careening down our hill on his bike in a thirty-

mile-an- hour blur. He was going so fast that he appeared as a smear across my vision when

momentarily lit-up by Chad’s headlights.

 

As we waited for the ambulance, Simon and I attempted piecing together the event.

 

“He swerved into the back of the black VW on the right side of the street. From where I

was, it looked like he turned out of Chad’s way and went straight into the car.”

 

“I think he’s drunk and didn’t see it ’cause it’s dark and he was hauling ass. It seemed to

me like there was plenty of space between Chad’s car and the VW.”

 

“Probably. He could’ve been blinded by Chad’s headlights, or thought it was an

oncoming car. I don’t know. He did go directly into the VW, though,” I said, putting my ear to

the man’s nose. “He’s breathing.”

 

“It’s insane – he doesn’t really look injured. The liquor must’ve saved him, loosened him up.”

 

“Probably.”

 

“Did you see him bounce? He bounced like five times.”

 

When the man hit the parked car, he flipped over its roof and flew forward about ten feet.

I live on a steep hill, so the further he flew, the higher he was off of the ground. He smacked the

asphalt, flopping down the road like a limp plushy.

 

I looked up at Simon. “That’s fucked up,” I said, fixing my eyes on the man’s face again.

 

When Simon and I first heard the crash of metal on metal, followed shortly by the

muffled thud of a body hitting the ground, we’d simultaneously done double-takes. Simon was

the first to run down the hill to where the man was lying. For some reason, I walked down the

hill slowly and with an uncanny sense of secureness. There’s a strange, captivating blend of

horror and allure – like when people rewind movies to watch the gruesome scenes frame-by-

frame – involved in witnessing any serious accident, and I was virtually entranced.

 

Chad was the last one to reach the man; he was also the first to leave. He left before we’d

even mentioned dialing 911. He stood there in silence for a few seconds, looking on as we

scrambled in panic, before gradually edging back towards his car. When I noticed he wasn’t next

to us anymore, Simon was pulling his cellphone out. I looked over my shoulder and saw Chad

driving up the hill.

 

Simon was on the phone with a 911 operator who was giving him instructions to relay.

“She says lift his head up with your hands, so that his neck is –” he paused for a moment “– is

propped up at a forty-five- degree angle.”

 

I cradled the man’s head, using the inside of my left elbow as a support.

 

“She says look in his mouth to make sure he didn’t bite his tongue or anything.”

 

I opened his mouth and grimaced. It looked like a blood, saliva, gum and teeth soup.

 

“His teeth are knocked out and his gums are bleeding.”

 

“He says his teeth are knocked out and –”

 

“No, wait,” I paused, squinting for a better look, “they’re just dentures. They must have

cut his gums when he fell.”

 

“He says never mind they’re just dentures,” Simon put his finger in his left ear. “Yeah, he

doesn’t appear to be injured anywhere else. Alright. Of course.” He nodded his head. “Bye.” He

looked at me. “She said the paramedics will be here in less than fifteen minutes.”

 

The whole time waiting for the ambulance I held the man’s head. He was snoring

abnormally now – I think this was his tongue obstructing his breathing – and in the fetal position,

having curled up gradually during the 911 call. Taken out-of- context, the scene would’ve looked

absurd: Me – a twenty-year- old kid – holding a curled-up, snoring fifty-something- year-old man

beneath a streetlamp.

 

“What’s your name? Who are you? Do you know where you are?” I asked the man every

so often, trying to get some sort of response out of him. His eyes remaining closed, he would

only mumble, nearly inaudibly. I didn’t get his name because he never regained full

consciousness while I was with him.

 

“Where the hell did Chad go?”

 

“No clue.”

 

“He drove off without even saying anything. Who does that?”

 

Shaking his head, Simon flared his eyes, “I don’t know, man. It’s pretty sketchy, agreed.”

It was difficult for me to fathom that somebody could just desert a person at the scene of an

accident, especially someone who could be seriously injured. I assumed at the time that Chad

was scared. That he felt like if he left quickly enough, it’d almost be as if he was never there, like

he never witnessed anything at all. A sort of rationalization. If you can convince yourself that

you’re un-involved, that someone else in your place would do the same as you, then you don’t

have to deal with the situation.

 

When the ambulance arrived, my thighs were burning from being in a squat for so long.

The paramedics got out, asked us if the man had had a seizure, and put him on a stretcher. They

kept asking the man his name, but he was still unconscious and mumbling.

 

It was weird doing such an important thing for someone who would never know you’d

done it. The paramedics thanked us and drove off, leaving us to give our brief statements to a

lackadaisical police officer. Neither of us mentioned Chad.

 

The next day I spoke with Simon on the phone.

 

“So, I guess Chad didn’t have his license and freaked.”

 

“Really?”

 

“Yep, that’s what he just told me a couple minutes ago.”

 

“His license?” I said in peeved disbelief. “Do you think he might’ve been at fault?”

 

“I don’t think so. The guy didn’t need to swerve as drastically as he did. He could’ve

turned slightly and completely missed Chad’s car.”

 

“You’re probably right.”

 

“Chad said he thought we ‘had the situation under control’ and that he was ‘afraid that if

he stayed he might’ve gotten in trouble’. Said he couldn’t ‘afford another ticket.’”