Finally, a Story in Which Nobody Dies

Feb 03  |  Thomas O'Connell

I screamed. When you scream on a carnival ride, it’s not really a scream – it is an act. I screamed.

I would spend my lunch hours the following week on the phone with the insurance company trying to get it all sorted out, the details unraveling little by little.

Monday morning at work, Frank asked me what I’d done over the weekend and I joked that ‘we went for a little spin.’ When I told him the rest of the story, he found this lead-in hilarious and set me up to repeat it to various colleagues throughout the day.

We were driving home from David and Emma’s wedding reception. I had only had one whiskey sour. Cheryl hadn’t had anything to drink, she was driving. We were singing along with the radio.

On the Interstate, by the downtown bypass, a boat of a car, a big old Chrysler, came speeding by. It clipped the rear end of our Toyota, sending us spinning.

When the car came to a stop, it sat across the two lanes: The crumpled trunk in the passing lane with Cheryl and me, dazed, in the slow lane. Due to the light traffic, and by the grace of God, all the approaching cars stopped without striking us. People came crowding around our windows, peering in and asking if we were okay, seeing if we were conscious, alive. They rolled our car over to the shoulder. Somebody must have called the police.

They found the driver of the Chrysler at a rest stop a few miles up the highway, trying to hammer his fender back into some semblance of order. He was drunk and picked a fight with one of the cops. When the officer assisting us relayed this to us, he said that the driver lived in Springfield, as if this was supposed to explain his actions.

We declined a trip to the hospital, opting for a cramped ride in the cab of the tow truck that was delivering our car to the dealership where we take our car for oil and filter changes. The tow truck driver thought that our car could be fixed. He was humoring us, but it was probably what we needed to hear.

By the time we dropped the car off, it was late. I called my brother-in-law to come get us. He took a roundabout route to get to our apartment, stopping at a Dunkin’ Donuts on the way. I think he was avoiding the highway.

I didn’t get much work done that Monday. Everyone asked me about the accident. They all had horror stories or advice or both. I found myself telling the whole story at the slightest provocation.

We came into our dark apartment. I could hear the bass from our neighbor’s stereo pumping through the walls. Cheryl didn’t bother mentioning it. We dropped our clothes along the way to our bedroom, not bothering to turn on any lights. The message indicator light on our answering machine was blinking. It would wait.

After using the bathroom I came into the bedroom. Cheryl was lying awake on top of the blankets. She seemed, like me, completely exhausted, drained. I didn’t think either of us would get any sleep that night.

I lay down on the bed, my fingers braided across my chest as if holding a Rosary. Cheryl ducked under my arm, resting her head on my chest. “I can hear your heart,” she said.

“Good Sign,” I replied, sliding down amongst her, around her, beside her as we made love until we both fell asleep.