There is a strange phenomenon that happens in the middle of real life. Everything is moving at full speed, but yet, there is a presence of mind, like say, when you’re falling down and in the middle of the fall, you have the presence of mind to know that you’re falling and yet, there’s nothing you can do but say, “Oh shit!”
I am thinking about a night when I was in my late 20’s. I was walking home from the train station after a long day at work. The rain from the earlier part of day left the black top on the streets to be wet and slick. There was a mist in the air. There were halos around the streetlamps with misty rainbow colored orbs around the buzzing glow from off-white lamps that reached out from the lampposts. It was not overly warm outside nor terribly cool. The weather was damp. The day was long and the streets were quiet.
I lived near the small railroad station named Country Life Press. I always liked the name of this station. I liked the feel of it. In reality, however, the neighborhood was a normal everyday suburban town. The streets were mainly quiet though. The town itself was pretty simple and safe to say, this was a decent place to live. As I made my way home from the train station on Magnolia, I walked along Meadow Street and approached a crosswalk. This was a main intersection. To be exact, the intersection was at Washington and Meadow, to which I lived seven houses down on Meadow.
I noticed a car sitting at the red light. The car was parallel to me. I could tell the driver was looking at something other than me. I could also tell the car was an unmarked car, owned by the town police. I could see all of this from my peripheral view, which to me was as a lesson from my old life. Although I was living an honest lifestyle, old habits die hard, which is why I made sure not to make eye contact with the officer in the car.
He was sitting at a red light. I was walking along the sidewalk on his driver’s side. The fog in the air was thick and there was a quiet sense of eeriness to the town. It was as though no one else existed. And maybe this was because the hour was getting late. Maybe the earlier rains told everyone else to stay indoors. Who knows?
All we knew is there was no one else around. And I do mean no one. There were no cars on the road and there was no reason for me to wait for the light to turn green. So in my haste, I failed to follow the main rule of “cross on the green and not in-between.” I suppose the officer in the unmarked car thought the same thing. I suppose he thought this without taking notice that I, me and myself were crossing the street. And here comes the phenomenon.
As I was crossing, I could see that I was not the only one that decided to defy the basic traffic rules. I could see this when crossing as the unmarked car sped and made a left turn. I knew this was happening to me. The speed was quick but yet, there was a sense of slow-motion to everything. And then bam! The car hit me.
I was up on the hood and in the middle of this action, I assumed I was going to fly over the hood and land on the ground with my head crushing on the pavement like a grape.
But no. That didn’t happen. I was riding on the hood and in that brief second, I thought “Okay, I’m safe,” until the officer hit the brakes. This is when I went flying about maybe ten feet ahead. All of this happened so quickly but yet, there was this strange presence of mind. There was a strange instance of slow-motion during a high-speed moment.
I was on my side facing away from the vehicle. I heard the officer jump out of my car and ask, “Are you okay?” My answer was perhaps a little strange. I wasn’t even looking at him. To the officer’s understanding, I had no idea who he was or what he was. To him, in his undercover vehicle, I suppose the officer thought he was being inconspicuous. But oh yeah. I knew it was him.
Lying on my side and not moving I answered, “Officer, I think I’m going to need your badge number.”
“My badge number? Kid, I have to get you to the hospital.”
Next thing I know, every police car in the town showed up on the scene. I just wanted everything to stop. In fairness, yes, I was in pain. My right knee was killing me from crashing against the ground. Suddenly, the old ex-con feelings and worries came to me. They wanted me to sit in the backseat of the car, to which I declined and said, “No, because the doors don’t open from the inside.” I heard someone say, “Something tells me he’s been in the backseat of a cop car before.” Again, my answers were not typical for someone that was just run over by a car. Then again, I was hardly a typical person at the time and I was certainly uncomfortable with my surroundings.
To be clear, nothing happened. I did not go to the hospital. I was fine. Then again, I was young and my ability to heal was very different back then. Here I am near the age of 50 and my bones make a lot of noise when I go to stand up.
I was doing all I could to convince the officers that I was fine. I was even doing jumping jacks in the middle of the street, just so they would let me go.
The story itself and the relationship between me and the officers and the attempt to add humor is not the point. Instead, this was just an instance. The point of the story is sometimes life is happening so fast and there is nothing you can do but say, “Oh shit,” and take the fall.
There are times when life is happening and although nothing slows down, there is that presence of mind that knows the fall is coming. There is a presence of mind that says, “This one’s gonna hurt,” and in the meantime, there is literally nothing we can do but say, “Oh shit!“
I have found myself in the surrealness of the moment when life took a shot and hit me hard. And I knew there would be pain after this. There were times when life hit me hard and although moving quickly, there was an oddly sharp moment in which I had the presence of mind to understand the fall and all else that was going on around me.
I remember when my Mother passed. I had to sign the papers to have her taken off the respirator. This was tough for me. You see, Mom had a living will. Mom’s wishes were that she would never want to be kept alive by anything artificial. I remember signing the papers. I remember everything happening so quickly, but yet, there was a presence of mind that knew this was the same as being in the middle of a fall. I knew this one was gonna hurt. And it did.
The mind is such an incredible thing. Take our dreams for example. Think about how elaborate they are and how detailed they can be; the way we dream seems as if our dreams are episodes that lasted an entire day. In reality, the dreams we have are bursts of ideas and thoughts that seem to be so long. But no. In actuality, most dreams only last for a few seconds.
Neitzchie once said, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger”.
I’m not sure if anything makes us stronger or perhaps, that which did not kill us only served to help us realize that we survived something. Maybe life’s events have nothing to do with us. Maybe the saying is that which has not killed me only taught me how to stay alive a little longer. Maybe the reason we find our strength and presence of mind in moments of crisis is because we are more talented than we initially believed.
Our brain is truly an incredible machine. Aside from making sure we breathe and that our heart keeps beating, our brain processes information. We have motor skills. We can see, hear, touch, smell and taste.
There were times when I was in the middle of a decision. In real-time, there was something in me that did not register properly. Maybe this was a premonition. Maybe this was my suspicion. Or, maybe this was my brain telling me, “Don’t do it,” and meanwhile, everything around me seemed to fall apart in full-speed. Life was in full-speed but my mind was processing in slow-motion.
I had this feeling last night. I wasn’t sure if I could trust the cause. I wasn’t sure if I could trust the surroundings. I was in a hospital and waiting on line to get my shot. And for the record, I really hate needles!
I had my first round of vaccination last night. I am unsure how I feel about this. I have this strange sense of anticipation. I don’t know what’s coming my way. I don’t know if I am being swayed by the moods around me. I don’t know if I’m being swayed by the media. I do know that my arm is sore.
I took the first round of a two round vaccination like a champ. I decided that I want to put this virus behind us. To hell with Covid-19!
I just hope that with all that’s going on, that we somehow find that old sense of normalcy. It’d be nice to go outside without worrying if I or my loved ones will get sick.
Thanks for listening . . .