I woke up in pain. Instantly felt it when I opened my eyes. I let out a small groan and Kurt asks, “Are you okay?” My body will be fine. I have bruises and bags under my eyes but not much more to show for what happened the night before. I respond, “I hurt”. “I know, Sam. I’m sorry”. It’s probably the 77th time he’s said ‘sorry’. It was an accident. A true accident. “I know, Kurt. It’s okay”.
We’re coming home from the wash and fold laundromat. All of our clothes are neatly folded and hung in the trunk of our two month old Jeep. We had just eaten dinner and I still had half my smoothie in the cup holder between us. We’re casually talking about how we can’t wait to get married one day. We discussed when, where, how many people, the budget. We were about a mile and half from home. I was reading a text from my mom at 7:38pm when I looked up and saw a red light approaching very quickly. Life was about to change. “Kurt, are you going to stop?!” Too late. We’re already running the light. I look to my right and saw headlights. They weren’t slowing down. They never slowed down. It seemed like we were suspended upside down for a minute, not seconds. The liquid from my smoothie splattered everywhere in slow motion. All I could think was, ‘this is it’. I screamed over and over and over, “I love you. I love you. I love you”. Kurt had to know that if anything happened to either one of us. It seems dramatic now but in those 5 seconds, I thought about a lot. One of us was going to die or be detrimentally injured. That’s all I could think.
Writing this post brings it right back. I feel nauseous. Then everything sped back up. We slammed into the ground right side up. It was the feeling you get on carnival rides when they drop super-fast. Except this time, my body slammed into the seat of the car that had just slammed into the cement under the tires. I started screaming instantly. “I want to get out! I want out! Get me out!” Kurt kept asking, “Are you okay? Sam, are you okay? Answer me!” I initially thought my arm was broke but realized it just hurt from the impact and the air bags. My door wouldn’t open so I crawled out of the driver side door. I couldn’t find my phone. My sweatshirt was stained from the airbags. It all smelt so weird. Kurt ran over to the other woman to see if she was hurt. I sat on the sidewalk rocking myself and hyperventilating. No tears just a mess of half screaming and half who knows what. The paramedics and police came. They forced me to go to the hospital. Nothing was broke and I realized that shortly after getting out of the car but they made me go anyway. I still didn’t have my phone and Kurt had to stay behind because all of our clean laundry was in the car. Once they took the car we didn’t know when we could get our clothes back. In the ambulance I just cried. I called my parents from the EMT’s phone. They, of course, freaked out. I assured them I was fine but I know they didn’t believe me because I sure didn’t sound it. I got to the hospital, sat by myself, and cried. Something in me broke. I didn’t almost die. I didn’t even break anything but I was traumatized. I cried for hours on end. Looking back, I sometimes feel like I was/am being dramatic but nothing prepares you in life for the moment you think you’re truly going to die. People go through way worse but that feeling has got to be the same. The feeling of regret for the things you didn’t get to do and sadness for those you’re leaving behind.
What came in the following days was one of the harder times of my life. I couldn’t dress or undress myself because I couldn’t lift my arms past my ribs. Washing my hair was near impossible. It hurt to breathe deep breaths, laugh, and cough. My whole body ached. I woke up all hours of the night. I had nightmares about the accident. I cried a lot. A LOT. Kurt felt guilty and I just felt incredibly sad. To this day my feelings are confusing to me. Why was I so sad? I was alive and healthy. The physical pains were nothing compared to the emotional trauma I continued to go through. The first few days I had anxiety attacks and cried multiple times a day. I hated when Kurt left our apartment. I was terrified it would happen again. To be honest, I still am. I freak out when I expect him home at a certain time and he’s not there and he doesn’t answer my phone calls. My mind jumps to the worst. Time has made this better but it’s not gone.
Days passed and I still cried but it was a lot less often. I continued going to work and school like nothing happened. I was physically fine and had no reason to not resume normal responsibilities. It helped normalize everything even though the first few days were brutal. Sitting in a desk chair hurt. I couldn’t concentrate on anything. I felt myself replaying the accident over and over. Time passed and it became more and more distant. Kurt still felt guilty and I still felt shocked and sad but the feelings grew weaker. Now I don’t think about it much and when I talk about it, it seems like this crazy thing that happened to someone else, not me. But it did. It’s changed me as a person. A lot has changed me in the past few years but this was a big one. A few weeks after the accident I realized we were waiting to get married for trivial reasons. We wanted to get married so we did. Things were put in prospective. Happiness and love were important. The accident and our wedding are linked in my mind. We were going to get married if the accident happened or not, but the accident changed a lot for us, especially me.
I now have a tiny tattoo on my leg that says 7:39.
We both literally walked away from the accident. I’m more grateful for that than any single other thing in my life.