This was my first accident. I didn’t know what to do…except get out of the road. And quickly. But I couldn’t just leave the car here, right? Wasn’t that illegal? A form of littering? I had to figure out how to take this immobile hunk of metal with me. My irrational mind was in overdrive. I saw the overturned fast food bag on the floor of the passenger side and I remember thinking how glad I was that I had finished my nuggets because an overturned bag of food would have caused a real mess. What if I had gotten sauce? My purse was also on the floor. I didn’t know whether I should grab it or not, I mean, wasn’t that evidence for the police and shouldn’t I leave everything exactly as it is? Oh my goodness, who’s going to call the police if I don’t have my phone? Should I do that now? That’s when I knew I must be in shock because how important is all of that at a moment like this? Through my crazy thoughts I heard yelling. I looked up and saw shadows running in my direction from down the highway on the other side of the median. What were they trying to say? Oh right…GET THE FUCK OUT OF THE CAR!
3 to 5 seconds after my jeep came to a halt on a busy highway facing the wrong direction, I grabbed my purse and cautiously stepped out into the road. I had very little room to maneuver as cars were still flying past me. I clung to the side of my wrecked vehicle, slowly inching my way around. As I almost reached the back-end, the semi that had been coming straight at me, changed lanes and went past me in the very next lane. I had to stop moving until it went by. It felt like it was inches away from me…and probably was, but thank goodness I couldn’t see it. Around the back, I saw the pool of gasoline still pouring out, right next to a hunk of aluminum? that I could only assume was formerly my gas tank. I had to go a little further out to avoid running through it. Just as I reached the safety of the median, I heard a crash and froze in place. I finally turned around as a red Ford F-150 slowly pulled over behind me. The driver just couldn’t get over fast enough and had side-swiped my car…exactly where I had been inching along only moments before.
It seemed like everyone reached me at the same time – the people running from the other side and the Ford passengers. “Are you okay? Are you hurt?” I broke down. I don’t think I’ve ever cried so much or so hard. The people running? Witnesses who had pulled over to make sure I was alright. I was grateful for two things from them: one that they cared about me and two, that they saw what happen and I wasn’t crazy. One actually commented that he didn’t know whether to continue after the guy or to check on me. A tow truck stopped and asked if I had AAA. I didn’t, but he towed my truck out of the road anyway at no charge. It’s moments like this one when you realize that there are still gracious people who would lend a hand to a stranger in need.
Finally, a fire engine and an ambulance showed up. They insisted I get checked out while the firemen handled the gasoline situation. I was so terrified I was still shaking. I felt so bad that all of these people’s lives were disrupted because of an incident involving me. I could have died. Someone else could have been seriously injured. In fact, the officer who handled my case said that I should probably go play the lottery…it was my lucky day. I knew for certain that it was the work of my angels – my grandmother and my great grandparents – who had to have been watching over me. There’s just no other way. Thinking about them brought on another round of water works and I was just a wreck in front of this officer. Thank goodness he was understanding.
Once all the statements had been written, no tickets given, (thank you witnesses!), I had called everyone I could think of. They were all in Tampa, of course, as I knew no one in Orlando. Who came to my rescue? Jen. I waited in the officers’ vehicle until she arrived. She hugged me, consoled me, told me everything was going to be alright. At her suggestion, I decided to make sure that I was able to get to and from work since I wouldn’t have a car right away. Jen drove me home to Orlando so I could grab enough clothes for a few days and then back to Tampa. She dropped me off at work where I was going to wait for my friend to finish her shift and I’d go stay at her place. Jen offered for me to stay with her and, as tempting as it was, I decided to stay with my friend instead. Things were still a little awkward. Sitting in the club, I grew antsy. I just needed to move, get my mind off of the accident. Of course, neither the manager or the DJ wanted me to go on stage, but I insisted. I felt grateful that I wasn’t dead, my legs weren’t crushed and I wasn’t a vegetable. Any of those things could have happen. So I did what I knew would make me happy. I was alive to dance another day…be it on a Broadway stage, a blackbox theater or a lacquered, neon lit, built-in-a-day stage…I danced. I didn’t overdo it since I knew I’d be hurting in the morning, but for the moment I was just counting my blessings to be in a familiar place with familiar faces, even if it was a strip club. It was the closest thing to home I had and, at the time, the closest thing to family.