I haven’t written anything in months, maybe a year now. I couldn’t figure out why for a while, but I think I figured it out the other day.
I’d noticed that my writing was slowing, so much so that in writing workshops I’d be reaching deeper and deeper into the past to find something that I could turn in for feedback. I kept meaning to write something new, but just never did. I couldn’t make anything happen. Not writer’s block. Something else.
Whenever I get in a writing rut, I usually don’t think too much about it because it doesn’t really mean anything. But this time I got a little concerned about it. Not concerned, but it felt new, different. I used to write a lot when I felt hemmed in. When I felt like I had no options, or felt like things were falling apart, I’d start typing, go inward and try to forget things. Make up new things to worry about instead.
The other day my dog attacked my cat. That was bad, I guess. But then it was over. “Maybe we’ll put a door up, separate them.” and that was it. She’s fine. He’s fine. Everyone is fine.
The next day, we’re sitting in the living room of our weird old house, which is set on a double-yellow at the bottom of steep downhill curve. There was a rip of tires screeching then the crunch of metal, then a skid of metal over concrete, then silence. Amanda called 911. I ran out to the car, which overturned and skidded into our neighbors lawn.
It was resting on where its hood used to be, the back of the car somehow pointing 30degrees into the air and smoking. A red four-door something or other. There were a few people around already, other people like me who’d run out into the road. Someone was directing traffic, two people were standing twenty feet away. It was confusing.
“Is this you?” I said, pointing at the car, then at the two people twenty feet away.
“What? No.” they pointed at another house.
“Is someone in there?” I asked, buying time.
The windows were obscured by curtain airbags, assorted car junk, coins, trash, was held between the glass and the airbags, dark brown, maybe red spatters on the glass. In the back seat, a baby bottle. The car is smoking.
“If you’re in there, we’re going to get you out, don’t worry.” I’m buying more time. The car is completely silent, and has been silent, the entire time. I don’t want to open the door because whoever is in there is probably dead and I don’t know if I can handle it.
Someone else comes to my side, some other guy who was passing by and pulled over to help. I ask him, like he knows anything, “are they in there?”
“They have to be, right?” he says, of course. He touches the door handle and I have to turn away. I’m assuming the worst, the baby bottle. The smoke from the airbags is hanging in the air and “who’s in here?” says the guy. Nobody responds, it’s silent and we can’t see. I have a moment of feeling ashamed of my reluctance to open the door, but when I turn around there are seven other people just watching. When I turn back, the smoke had cleared some and there’s a crumpled body in the passenger side, nobody in the driver side.
“It’s smoking pretty bad” says other guy, noticing that more smoke is coming through the vents, it’s not just the airbags and that kinda helps snap me out of it, I try the other doors and cant get them all open, he has better luck because he pulls like he’s actually trying. The doors open, it’s enough to clear the new smoke from the cabin.
It’s just one person. She starts making noise. She was unconscious for a bit and is coming around, making high pitched and dazed sounds. The high pitch babble makes me worry again for a second that there’s a child somewhere under her, but it’s just her.
“Don’t move.” Me and the other guy start yelling at her not to move. We’re better at yelling than anything else so far. “You’re probably hurt real bad,” other guy says. I look at him like he’d just said something very rude and say “try not to move, an ambulance is on the way.” Professional writer.
Then we just stand there. About ten of us now, just stand and look at the car and I guess we all kind of hope it doesn’t catch fire. Someone says “I guess she was texting. Maybe she’s drinking” all within earshot of this person who is still upside-down, and for all we know, dying.
The police arrive. Other guy gets in his car and leaves, he does a polite honk and wave as he pulls away. He drives over the the skid mark from her tires, which starts at the curve above my house, points directly at my front door, then curves away through one neighbor’s retaining wall, and another’s lawn. Rocks from the wall and bits of car are scattered everywhere. Cops in flack jackets take pictures with an old digital camera.
People keep watching or go home. After a while, I see that she’s been loaded into an ambulance and I ask a cop if she’s ok “Fine, a little dazed, a few minor injuries. She’ll be ok.”
After an hour it’s all cleaned up and like it never happened. Cars start barreling through. And it’s fine. She’s fine. I’m fine. Everything is fine. But I do feel like I should write about it. I feel like I should go write it all down. I haven’t had that in a while.
About a year or so ago, I figured out some ways to help with some of my fun quirks. Some of my foibles. Some of the things that make it so I can’t always think straight but am almost always needing to clear my head, to write something down on paper to get rid of it.
On one hand, I really miss writing. I miss sometimes having an urge to write that’s so strong I worry I’m going to hyperventilate if I don’t. But on the other hand, apparently I was living with a persistent, ongoing car crash in my mind every single day and I just thought that’s what writing is. I guess I thought writing is an experience of being sure that death is just on the other side of every closed door and the only way to stop thinking about that is typing. That’s writing. That’s what my gift is. My true talent.
These are the plusses and minuses of mental health: On one hand, I’m completely comfortable and happy. On the other hand, I do not experience minor stress and then am so flustered that I need to quickly escape reality and write a flash fiction piece about vampires or whatever the fuck. Upside: health and happiness. Downside (?) fewer submittable rejections?
I need to learn how to write more even though I don’t feel like garbage all the time, is my point. That’s the point of this post. My life is better. I’ve done all kinds of work to make my life better, but now that it’s better I don’t have this crushing drive to escape into typing. And I need to figure that out.
I’ve lost the thread of this post, but, as I’ve said, I’m a little rusty. But I’m fine. It’s fine. Everything is fine.
4 thoughts on “Summer – 2021”
THIS is writing. This is GREAT writing. You are writing.
And… who was driving that car?
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Thanks Alice! That’s kind of the weird thing, we’ll never know. The whole thing was so intense and so personal and crazy and then it was just gone. And we’ll never really know what happened. Our town doesn’t have a police blotter, there’s not really a way for us to check up on her and see if she’s ok. Just there and gone.
Damn Dan, this is so good. Thank you for writing it. Thank you for sharing it. My day just got a whole lot better.
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Thanks buddy – that means a lot.