How do you stay standing when all you want to do is fall?
I thought I was going to die. The pain smothered every fiber of my being. It felt as though a thousand knives were slicing my tendons and bones of my arm and poking my head with their tips. Blood covered the windshield, the steering wheel, the seats…me. I couldn’t feel my right arm, but from what I could see, it was lodged in the seat. Unable to cry or scream, I tried to force the pounding in my head to disappear and never return. I just kept thinking over and over, Dad and I are going to die.
Before this I had previously thought about death, but my thoughts were obscured by how I wanted to die in the distant future. In peaceful serenity. Painless. Ready. I thought about time, and how I wanted plenty of it. I wanted to be in control of my death and in control of my pain. Now, it appears I was just forced to wake up and face reality. I didn’t get to choose. I would either die in pain or…well right then I was pretty sure my only option was to die in pain. Whoop dee doo. Just what I wanted from the weekend with Dad.
Siren lights flashed. Panicked voices erupted amidst the mess of the wreck. From what I noticed, some people actually stopped their cars, but I didn’t see anyone get out to help. As if they really could, I guess. No one could help us. We were t-boned in my small Jeep by a giant pickup truck. We rolled over more than once, but I was too disoriented to count precisely how many times. But the EMTs hurried over to try to help anyway.
I tried to stay in control and stop the pain, but I couldn’t. This was out of my control. Since we rolled over, my head was forced onto the ceiling of the vehicle. Any blood still remaining inside me rushed to my head as I hung from the seat upside-down, adding to the pounding sensation of my brain. My eyes were fuzzy and blood was dripping into my eye, contributing to my already blurred vision. Despite that, I could see vaguely that they pulled my father’s body out of the Ford.
What I saw then was worse than any pain I felt before. It was worse than pouring acid on an open wound or stepping on a nail with bare feet.
My dad shook there on the cold hard ground, coughing up blood; his ears beginning to bleed, one of his ribs showing. His face was so covered in blood that it looked as though a child decided to finger-paint a piece of art on his face. I wanted to close my eyes, but I couldn’t. I had to see my dad. He had to live.
“Hurry, hurry! He’s crashing!” yelled one of the EMTs.
My eyes were about to close due to my loss of blood. I looked to where my right arm should be and my stomach turned. I couldn’t see the arm anymore. It almost looked as though it had disappeared behind the seat like some wicked vanishing trick. Bile mocked me. It was one of those things that send your stomach in a whirl, no matter if you think you have an invincible stomach. I moved my head best I could, so I was facing the ground. I won’t go into details, but let’s just say spending a bunch of money at Olive Garden that night probably wasn’t a good idea.
I tried to breathe, but looking at my dad on the ground, dying, made it exceptionally difficult not to panic. I need to get out of there. I need to help him. He needs help. And my arm…oh God, don’t even think about that again.
I saw the man then. The man who had hit us. Or rather I saw his blurred figure. He wasn’t large. He was not the stereotypical size of person one would normally see driving a big pickup truck. The brightness of his teeth formed a smile among all the lights. A police officer arrived and the smile faded. He talked to the officer, seeming to be telling him what had happened.
I heard a faint voice call for me. It sounded like my name. I craned my neck to stare at my dad again. I blinked, trying to subdue the agony.
I said nothing. I couldn’t say anything.
“Get him to the ambulance will you!” I noticed the voice of my Uncle Joe, trying to find his way to his brother while shouting at the doctors. He had been following us in his car on the way home from the restaurant that we all ate at. He must have seen the whole crash as it happened.
“We have to do it here, he’s crashing!”
“Fix him on the way to the hospital for Christ’s sake! This is my brother! Keep him alive!” Joe collapsed on the ground. He was losing control. And my uncle never lost control of himself.
“We are doing our best, sir,” one of them said, taking a deep breath.
“That’s not good enough!”
“DO IT NOW!”
The EMTs ignored him and stayed where they were, on the ground, in the middle of an intersection, just outside of Washington D.C. One of them was performing the same CPR I learned in my eighth grade health class, and another was bringing a defibrillator over to him. They set it up.
Watching this felt like a dream. No, not a dream, a nightmare. The worst one I have ever had. As they said, “Clear!” I prayed that I was in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. That it was all just a TV show we could all talk about later eating at Olive Garden again, because we would all eat at Olive Garden again. Then, I recalled that I had no right arm and I was bleeding in every way possible. I was feeling weak, and I realized I was not in Grey’s Anatomy. This was my life, or I supposed my death at this point.
His chest moved up with the force of the machine, but didn’t move any more than that.
“Bump it up to three hundred…clear!”
Nothing. Come on, Dad…come on…
“Do it again!” My uncle shouted, sobbing and shaking.
Suddenly, towards the left side of his chest, blood squirted. It came out in spurts, like the water fountain in Mrs. Ferguson’s tiny clean-cut lawn.
“His lungs are filling with blood!” My uncle was seriously losing it now. I could see the ache written all over his face, and I hope I didn’t have the same look on mine. It was terrible to look at, and I didn’t want my dad to have to see it.
“Get me that now!” said one of the EMTs trying to compress the blood into his chest and asking for something to stop it.
It didn’t matter. The blood didn’t stop. It kept coming. I doubted the doctors could even see through the blood in their eyes.
And then, it stopped. Everything was still. It was as if the earth stopped turning. One of the doctors put his fingers to Dad’s neck.
All I heard after that was the wailing scream of Joe, fallen over my father’s body.
“Time of death, 20:32.”
A white sheet was placed over his body and my world disintegrated into blackness.