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Josh's Car is Crushed
It is amazing what the surrounding world can teach you if you are willing to open your eyes. I discovered the true meaning of friendship and courage.
It should have been a normal night. It should have been the same trip we made almost three times a week. It should have been boring. On that Sunday, however, it was anything but boring. Three friends of mine were leaving to go on a break from work, but on the way their car was hit by another.
Ironically enough, this was my night off from the movie theater, and I was seeing a movie with friends. Jackie, my best friend, split her forehead open on the passenger seat belt holster. She did not remember climbing out of the car and sitting down on the curb. She did not remember all the blood streaming down her face. She did not remember telling someone at the accident site "Get my friend. She's in a movie."
Somehow, they managed to find me.
An usher came into my theater and simply said "You have an urgent phone call." I got up and wondered what kind of trick they were playing on me, but when I got to the lobby and grabbed the phone I felt my stomach drop to the floor.
"Hi, this is Mike. I hate to be the one to tell you this, but Jack, Josh, and Jackie were in an accident. You need to come to the corner by Steak-N-Shake and Denny's right now."
I hung up the phone and did not know if I was going to cry or vomit. I had so many questions. Who was driving? Who was hurt? Are my friends dead? What happened?
I drove to the scene and told my friends in the back seat to look out for a silver Civic or a white Saturn. I knew usually Jackie and Josh were the drivers on nights like these.
"Oh, God." My friend sucked in his breath. "Look at that white car." I parked and climbed out of the car. To this day a part of me wishes that I hadn't. There, on a wrecker, was Josh's little Saturn, completely totalled. The wheels were bent at an odd angle. The metal frame was shredded. The passenger door was crumpled too badly to ever open again. Glass and shrapnel lay on the road. An ambulance and two cop cars closed off the intersection.
I immediately felt my body begin to shake. Then I thought of a clichéd
After the initial shock of the crushed car, I began searching for my friends. First I saw Jack sitting on the curb with a neck brace on. Next I saw Josh staring quietly as they pulled the remains of his vehicle on the wrecker. I noticed the headlights were on and the windshield wipers were swishing rapidly. I frantically searched for the other person in the car, my best friend. I ran to Josh.
"Where is Jackie?" I held my hands up helplessly. He wordlessly pointed to the ambulance. Every bone in my body wanted to go home and lie in bed. I simply did not want to look inside, but I had to. I slowly walked over and glanced through the open doors.
A bloody mess. That's all I remember. A person somewhat resembling Jackie covered head to toe in blood with a huge gauze wrapping around her head. Her eyes barely opened and she looked like something you would see at a World War I hospital.
Suddenly, it was like an explosion rocked my body. Tears came that I could not stop. At this point, many workers from our theater and a manager were at the scene too. A manager came and comforted me. She repeated over and over again that it would be OK.
"Go talk to her. She wants to see you." Talk to her? How could I possibly sit down and chat like everything was normal when I could not control myself? I could no longer stand the chaos. I found a quiet area next to the ambulance and stood by myself for a minute or so. A thousand different ideas raced in and out of my mind, keeping my heart at a quick pace. I had to do this. For Jackie.
"Hey, hun." I peeked my head in and forced a smile. Jackie rolled her head over and slowly opened her eyes about half way. Through all the blood, she smiled.
"Can she come with me?" she asked the ambulance assistant.
"Nope, she's not allowed. Sorry."
"But I think I asked for her."
I hate to admit it, but I was pretty happy when I heard there was no chance of me riding with her. Due to bad childhood experiences, I have an extreme fear of hospitals and ambulances.
"OK, let's leave." The driver shut the door in my face and climbed to the front. I asked around and figured out what hospital they were going to, so I followed them.
I was the first person to arrive in the emergency room. As I said, hospitals are an awful place for me. I sat in a chair and tried not to cry. Eventually I got the nerve to ask a nurse if she was in there. Her parents were with her, the nurse told me.
Then people started arriving. My manager, Josh, Jack, and their families. Two friends that Jackie and I were going to hang out with later that night. Finally, my family. I called my mother and said I would be at the hospital waiting for Jackie. She knew how I could get at hospitals and came to drive me home after they discharged her.
With nothing else to do, we sat. Josh and I are very close, but on this night I could find no words to say to him. I wanted so badly for him to hug me. I needed more reassurance. He just sat and stared at the wall. Jackie's stepfather came out and talked about her injury. They called a plastic surgeon to put stitches in her forehead, running from her scalp to her nose.
I took my mother aside and told her I could not be here any longer. I broke down again and let her hold me while I cried uncontrollably. One thing about my mother, she always has the right thing to say or do. She went inside and offered to pick up Jackie's car at work and bring it home for her family.
So we did. On the drive, I talked to mother and tried to explain everything that was running around inside my mind. Then a few different ideas struck me.
The night before, I was sitting in the exact seat Jackie was in. We decided to drive around downtown last night, and Josh loved driving more than anything. One night earlier, and that could have been me. The trip to Steak-N-Shake was so routine and comfortable that no one even questioned it anymore. We all assumed every night that Josh would drive us to the same old restaurant. The tradition and the security that came with it was shattered forever.
We went back to the hospital to drop her keys off. I had planned on walking in and out before I could cry again, but Jackie's mother grabbed me.
"Come back and see her, I'll get you in." She nodded to a nurse who buzzed me into the ER. I asked a lady behind the counter where I could find my friend. She pointed me to a room. A bloody mess. No one had bothered to clean her up. She half-opened her eyes again and smiled at me.
"How are you?" I asked gently.
"Really mad at the x-ray guy. What a jerk!" I felt like crying and laughing at the same time. Under this hideous gore was the same old friend.
I could not believe the strength she had. I knew very well that if I were the one in the ER, I would most likely have to be tranquilized like when I was younger. She began talking about what was going on, all with a smile. Then she became quiet. "What happened?"
I looked at her and realized I had no answer. An interesting yet sad part of this tale is that no one really knows what happened. A car with about five people who admitted to having "a few drinks" came from nowhere and hit my friends.
We talked about what could have happened and why it happened and what would happen next. Yet the longer I stared at her, the more nauseous I felt.
Guilt, too, took over my body. I did not want to be here any longer but my friend needed me, so I stayed. I stayed about twenty minutes until the surgeon came. I walked into the lobby and our entire party stood up and stared at me, expecting a report.
"She's fine. Same old Jackie mad at the x-ray guy and wants food." They smiled out of relief and went back to waiting. Waiting for what we did not really know.
Inside I was torn to pieces, but I knew what needed to be done next. I made eye contact with Josh for the first time that night and waved him over so we could talk in private. I told him everything Jackie had told me.
"No, she's not mad at you. No, she doesn't hate you. Are you OK?" I noticed not a single person had asked Josh that tonight. He looked at me and I could tell that deep down he felt the same way I did, but he was better at hiding it.
"No, I'm not," he said. I finally got the embrace I had been searching for. In all honesty, it was a very cheesy moment that Full House would have loved to capitalize on. Yet a lesson that I will never forget took shape that night: the real meaning of courage and friendship.
Two types of courage came out that night. Jackie's courage, a smiling face in a mix of chaos and pain. My courage, the strength to face my biggest fear because someone else needed me. I finally understood that friendships are more than remembering birthdays and knowing secrets.
Friendships are overcoming trying times that leave some of us scarred forever. Since this event, Josh and I have an unspoken bond that no one else knows about, understands, or needs to.
Shortly after the accident, Josh looked me straight in the eye and asked if I would ever get into a car with him driving again. I smiled and said yes. I told him I would give him my keys anytime if he wanted. It was the truth.
The images from that evening haunt me still. The mangled Saturn, Josh's facial expressions, and Jackie covered in blood still form clearly in my mind anytime I bring them up. The first few nights after the accident I could not even sleep for fear of reliving the night. Being awake was worse than dreaming, however. The visions I saw when I was awake were real.
Nevertheless, I am a firm believer that all things happen for a reason. All four of us have become more cautious when driving, and I tend to cherish life a little more.
I remember going to work the day after the accident. Somehow, no one at work knew that I was at the scene and stayed in the ER for four hours the previous night. People came up and told me the twisted and exaggerated versions of what had happened. Yet what bothered me the most was a phrase I continue to hear every time this story is told.
"Did they sue? Why not? I would have sued them for every penny!"
I want to scream at these people. I want to make them understand. I want them to see what I saw and feel what I felt, so that maybe they will get it.
So many things are more important in times like these then material
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