Car Crash, Relatively

I could feel the space in between the sound and the action. There was a brief glimpse to the future. It showed us something we don’t always see—space. It was the dying light of a star from light years away. It was the laws of the universe showing themselves: what we see and what we hear are not fixed, not true. I didn’t hear the slam when it happened—I heard the ghost of it. I didn’t even see the car accident, really, just reflections from my cornea processing protons moving at the speed of light. Put that way, what is there to any of this? What is looking out from behind those eyes? Upon seeing the crushed cars together and feeling so little, a dissociation descended—a comparison between what I’d just seen in real life and what I’d seen on TV. When the sound hit, it was dull, plastic. The Foley artist did a poor job capturing the drama of the situation. Or maybe my ears were not in Dolby. Maybe it was a bad reception.

A couple people ran into the street. They were closer than I was; they would have seen and heard it all at once. The spell wasn’t broken for them. Their shouting drifted up to the hill to me like gentle whispers. Distance can turn bombast into intimacy.

There’s an instinctive pull that says I should go. That I should insert myself down there and get out my phone. We should be calling someone. Something terrible has happened. But the drivers and passengers in the cars were outside and walking around. They were angry at each other, not hurt or dead. Bystanders were on the phone. It was a scene in which I had no place. I could only be an extra body, a rubbernecking onlooker for the eventual police and ambulance to push out of the way in order to perform concussion and sobriety tests.

The string of consequences that would follow would be long. Maybe one of them was drunk. Maybe the other had just gotten out of prison. Maybe one didn’t have a license. Maybe one was going to a hospital for the birth of a child while the other rushed to a dying relative. Maybe they’re each obstacles in the other’s emergency. Maybe the one who could be drunk will hit rock bottom now. Maybe he will turn things around. Maybe he ends up on the streets. Are they headed for an uncaring system that will drive them down, or do they have a support system to get them through?

I was seeing a moment of creation and destruction in several lives. A big bang that already echoed in their future, travelling in that relative space between the sight of the accident and the sound of the crash. But it wasn’t my life. I was only seeing it by chance. Would I remember it later? Was I supposed to?

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