Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Memoir Excerpt – Dead in the Street

It was only a few weeks after providing medical treatment at a wreck that I drove up on an accident that had just happened on my street. I saw a girl lying in the road and a crowd forming at the curb. I pulled over and hopped out of the truck. I had been on a high since helping out at the first wreck, and I expected to swagger up and be the hero again. As I got closer I spoke to a crossing guard, an older woman who had come over to keep the onlookers back.

“I’m a medic in the Army. What happened?” I asked in a very official tone.

“She got hit by a car.” She put a hand on my shoulder. “She’s dead. You can’t do anything for her, honey.”

I kneeled over her body, and the gravity of the situation was like a vacuum, sucking every thought out of my head, every word out of my mouth. She was already dead and there was nothing I could do. A wide trail of bright red blood, still wet and glistening, painted the path in the street where her body had slid after the impact.

“How did it happen?” I asked quietly.

She was thirteen, a seventh-grader at the local high school, a dingy white building just two blocks from where her lifeless body now lay in full view of the horde of students that peeked over and around each other to get a good look at the only dead body some of them would ever see outside of a funeral home. She had gotten out of school only moments earlier and was walking with her friends when she spotted the car of an older friend coming and decided to play a prank on him, something she would never live to regret.

As he approached, she crouched between two cars parked on the side of the street, waiting until he was only twenty or thirty feet from her before leaping in front of it, arms flailing, a move that she had hoped would scare him and make him swerve wildly, but he couldn't swerve — or stop — in time. Now she lay in the street, her petite body buckled, eyes open and staring at nothing, textbooks and notebooks strewn about, a thin river of blood trailing from her head and pooling at the base of the curb.

I went home, got in the shower, and cried. I squatted down in the tub and as the water ran over me I cried deep, hard sobs that forced the air out of my lungs until I was almost heaving. It was the oddest time to notice that I was actually thin enough now to squat sideways in the shower, and I laughed through my tears for a moment. Then her ashen face came back to me and I sank again and wept for a girl I had never met.