The Right Pedal

Saturday, September 30, 2006

A widow

First: we are fine.

I saw a dead man. His guts popped out of his belly, glistening dark red. His leg was flayed open, and I could see the moist yellow fat of his calves. His neck twisted his head down low, as if he were trying to hear the ground whispering. But his torso arched away and bent in two places.

His death was quick and gruesome, but I could barely understand that. His life stopped—I comprehend that—but in a way so alien that it’s almost meaningless to me.

His wife sat in the car, touching an oozing gash that showed her skull. I gave Michelle my shirt, and she made a compress to stanch the blood. The wife kept asking about him: where is he, where’s my husband? She couldn’t see through the shattered windshield. But her husband’s corpse was close by, harshly lit by the headlights that were his guides only two minutes ago.

Someone covered his body with a flannel shirt.

Where is he, where’s my husband?

You’re a widow now. You were from Georgia or Florida, here on vacation, your trunk full of luggage. Now your little SUV is facing the wrong way on I-93, the trunk has popped open, your face is covered in blood, and very soon someone will tell you that you’re a widow. I’m glad someone else took care of you in those minutes before the ambulance came, because I don’t know what words to say.

We had lots of company, but little help. Maybe a dozen people had stopped. And someone in this milling, buzzing group drove the other car, the one nose-down in a ditch, the one that made contact with the little SUV that used to contain a husband and wife but now contains only a widow and some luggage.

I wonder about him. Did he hit them? How would he answer the question, where’s my husband? I don’t know what he might say. I didn’t see which car hit the other. I saw tail lights wiggle, fly across the highway, a dead man, a widow.

Some more things happened, but they don’t matter.


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