I cried when I wrote this. Part of my father’s job was to pick up pieces of people. I knew that when I was very young.
He saw twisted metal and shards of bloody glass. Many people do not know it takes 160 feet to skid to a stop from 60mph. He saw skid marks on the highway that drew straight lines 100 feet directly into other cars.
My father tried teaching people to use their steering wheels and avoid accidents. Drivers of other cars could not hear him screaming at them through their windows.
One day, my family drove the streets of Indianapolis together. My father sat in the driver’s seat. My mother sat in the passenger seat. I climbed up front between them and sat on the lump of leather in the middle. They let me sit between them and look out the clear, thick windshield at the world rushing toward us.
As we traveled down a long line of road, a car pulled out just feet ahead of us. Then it stopped. My father did not swerve left into oncoming cars. He did not swerve right into parked cars. We screeched to a stop inches from the taillights ahead. My forehead hit the hard solid glass of our windshield. I bounced off and fell back between my mother and father. I put my hand on my head.
My father’s face turned red and his eyes were big. He examined my head. He put his hand on my neck, and asked me to look down at the floor as slow as I could and then up at the roof of the car. He began to swear. His dark eyebrows moved towards each other. He opened his door and jumped out. I pushed myself up on the leather lump as far as I could and looked over the dashboard. I watched my father march past the nose of our car and past the taillights in front of it.
He stood for a moment. His head looked like it was feet above the driver’s side of the car in front of us. He put his hands on the open sill of the driver’s side window and crouched down. I saw the muscles of his face bulge and twitch. He lifted one arm and pointed back towards our car. It looked like he was pointing straight at me. I saw him move his head forward toward the open window and look inside. His eyebrows moved down. “I’m okay!” I yelled at the windshield. “Mom, I’m okay!” I looked at my mom. She was looking straight ahead.
My father reached into the other car. His feet were planted wide apart. His left hand gripped the door, and his right hand reached in through the window. His arm looked like it could stretch all the way through and unlock the passenger side. His eyes burned into the car. There was a burst of motion. His arms and shoulders and chest thrashed. His feet stayed planted. His left hand gripped the car door. The rest of him thrashed back and forth. I screamed “I’m okay!”
My father thrashed back and forth and back and forth for a long time.
He stopped moving. He withdrew the length of his arm inch-by-inch. My father turned and took slow steps toward us.
We drove home in silence.
In an Indianapolis newspaper, there was an article about an unexplained accident. An adult male had been found parked in his own car across town from his home. Police found blood spattered across the dashboard and windshield and steering wheel. The man was taken to the hospital. He was treated for a broken jaw, nose, cheekbone and orbital bone. No investigation into the accident was planned. The man’s blood alcohol level was tested at the hospital and was found to be twice the legal limit.