My Recent Car Wreck; Trauma Will Not Win

Like many young writers who play the professional game I picked up a part time job for some extra cash and experience to keep my resume flowing while I still look for the door to kick in and put my foot. I started canvassing for rent control in the city of Sacramento and felt wonderful about it. The hours were flexible, I was working with friends from the DSA, BLM and the other organizations as a part of a cause I whole heartedly believe in. I was getting a work out from walking door to door, it was everything a young writer needed.

Then, on Wednesday March 21, 2018 at approximately 945pm, as I drove home from a normal shift, it all happened.

A sedan in front of me was going 30 mph in a 40mph zone, both of us were in the right hand lane. I merged into the left lane and raised my speed to somewhere between 40-50 mph to pass the car, who I see in my mirror has slowed down because they were texting. I merge back into the right lane, then within ten seconds my windshield shatters, my airbags explode, and a loud series of thuds batters my car into a circle off the road like the Hell’s Angles stomping a narc.

Somehow I had lost control, spun out, and hit a tree on the side of the road. Within ten seconds, my leisurely drive home was to turn into one of the most traumatic ordeals of my life. Within ten seconds my right hand was full of glass, my neck throbbing with whiplash, and my legs trapped under the dash.

Yet I never hit my head, I never lost consciousness, I never went into a panic, at least not until I realized I was trapped and my door would not open.

The impact had shattered my drivers side window, when I realized I was stuck and that the smoke from the engine was growing I bellowed out onto the street. “Help! I was just in a major car accident and I’m trapped! Can somebody help me, please!?”

Within seconds, a man in a blue sweatshirt caring the mascot of a sports team, I cannot remember if it was pro or college, was by my window.

“Hey, are you okay?” he said.

“I think so.” I knew it was only because of the shock, but at this point I felt no pain, and could not think about anything else except getting out of that car.

He proceeded to ask me what happened and while trying to suppress my panic I told him the details as I told you. He assured me I was okay, and he also assured me that I seem pretty cognizant so he didn’t think I was drunk, which I wasn’t. He kept me calm, and called the paramedics, and stayed with me until they arrived.

While we waited he introduced himself to me, “What is your name?”

“James,” I told him, my voice cracking because I felt like a frightened child who just needed an adult, any adult.

“Hi James, I’m Philipe, you’re going to be okay, I’m right here and the paramedics are on their way.”

Philipe, you are a total stranger and you might have saved my life. If you are reading this, contact me. Needless to say I owe you one.

Soon after three cars had stopped and pulled over. One stayed on the corner by the street with flashers on to keep other cars from hitting me. The two other people stayed by me to keep me calm. I never screamed in agony or hyperventilated, I never did anything accept breath and trust my life to these strangers, I felt there was no other way I could survive the situation.

The paramedics and fire department arrived. They shattered the glass on the passenger side to get the car unlocked, but still the jaws of life were needed to pry open the door to get me out.

Once out, I realized I could put no weight on my ankle, so I was immediately put on the gurney and taken to UC Davis Trauma Center. Of course once your on the gurney they could be taking you to Mexico for all you know.

Once you are on the gurney, all you can do is look up, you can see nothing from side to side or even your own feet. I have no idea what roads they took to get me to the trauma center and once there I had no idea where I was going when escorted from room to room. The blood on my hands had dried to a horror film prop crust. The neck brace was chaffing to say the least. I had no control over anything, I do not like that.

The intake nurse made an insulting joke about how I was lucky I only had one beer, and next time I should “use uber.” The paramedics reassured me that I was fine, that they knew I wasn’t drunk, and that nurse was an asshole. I do not want to obsess over it, but I will say that I hope this nurse gets fired, you do not make jokes to patients in the trauma intake center.

I do not want to relive the rest of that night, I do not want to go into all the details because the details are the hell that traumatized me and I just don’t want to relive it, not now or ever again. I will say that all the other staff at UC Davis trauma center were very kind, very understanding, very tender, all of which I needed at the time.

The night was a series of tests, and waiting, and tests, and waiting. Waiting, alone in cold sterile rooms warmed only by a set of blankets haphazardly stacked on me. Waiting. Locked in a position unable to sit up because you aren’t allowed. Waiting, stuck looking only at the lights and ceiling tile because of a neck brace, then more x-rays and tests. All getting wheeled to an from, never knowing exactly where or for what test. Waiting.

When I first arrived and the doctors started their first tests, just after stripping me of my clothes, a social worker asked who they should call. I gave them my mother’s name and both phone numbers. I did everything I could to share every detail I could whenever I was asked a question, no matter what the question was.

I went into detail with the paramedics about Sacramento’s Rent Control Movement that I had been working on when they asked about my job in the ambulance. I told the nurses about the Irish Socialist themed birthday party I had on St. Patrick’s day when they asked me about what I did on St Patty’s, and when it came to the important stuff, my name my address and phone number I made sure to give as stringently and calmly as I could. I think I was doing that to prove that I was still cognizant, still aware of the situation, still myself. I do not know if it was to prove it to them or myself, but I think maybe I just wanted to prove to myself that I was still here, as if knowing that I was conscious would remind me that I can get better. That I will get better.

My parents arrived after my first x-rays, all I could do was cry when I saw my mother. A cry like a child cries when he wants his mom to make all the pain go away. “I just want to go home.” I told her as she took my hand with tears flooding my face, “I just want to go home.”

I was not released until 5am. My poor mother had to call in a substitute teacher for her class that morning and my father was passed out until 10am the next morning. My poor father, a disabled person himself and he compensates his nerves with humor, he is the kind of person to laugh when he is anxious. The whole time in the ER where he had a lot of time just waiting he was fidgety, making comments he should not have, but he knew no other way to process the situation. He has a bad history with car wrecks, at my age he was in a similar situation, he was hit on his motorcycle by a drunk driver near Torrance, CA. He almost lost his leg and because it was poor working class hippie versus rich Cadillac drunk driving estate agent, CHP wanted to cite my dad for being in his way. Not twenty years later, my father lost his own father in an auto accident that is shrouded in mystery. My grandfather had issues, so many issues that some of us wonder if this death was actually an accident. The point is between my grandpa, my dad, and myself we are three for three for car wrecks. I do not think that was an easy thing to process and a legacy I hope ends with me.

My mother has been in Mom-mode ever since. Like when I was sick as a boy, she has been doing everything to make me comfortable, but not only that, she is keeping my father grounded because I know this traumatizes him in a way the rest of the family just will never get.

Then there was my sister, my poor sister. She loves and supports me so dearly, for her to see me in that state in the ER, for her to think she might have lost me that night, I cannot imagine what she felt. My sister is an Empath, yes like in Star Trek, she can just look at someone and feel what they are feeling, I know she felt my pain that night and I wish I wasn’t in pain, because then she wouldn’t be either. Later, she was not pleased because the day after the accident I made a point of showing up to city hall and the outskirts of the Golden 1 arena for the Stephon Clark protest. Yes, I was there even with a broken ankle, a bruised lung, and whiplash. We all have our own ways to heal, mine is to keep going. My wounds will heal, Stephon Clark won’t.

My road to recovery could be long or short, I am still not sure. All I know is that in a matter of seconds everything about who I was was taken from me, and that I never realized how dependent on being an able bodied person I was for my identity. I know I will recover, be it weeks or months I will walk again and march again. I did not get the word “Invictus” tattooed on my arm just because it looks cool, I got it to remind myself that I am strong, that I am unconquerable. Yes, I am traumatized. When I am alone for too long I have flashbacks to the accident, to the total loss of control and the moment that the thuds came thundering onto my van. But I will not let this trauma define me. I know this passage has been mostly about pain, fear, and a loss of control that I had never experienced before, but I am not despairing over a few boo boos. I will not let a simple twist of sad and painful fate rob me of who I am. I will recover, I will be fine. But what I will never understand is the how, or the why I survived.

All the paramedics said I was lucky. That when they saw the car they “expected the worst,” and were amazed I was conscious. The doctors and nurses all said the same thing. I do feel lucky. I don’t when the cast on my ankle itches or when the pain meds where off and it throbs but I do feel lucky, and curious.

How the hell did I survive that? How the hell did I not hit my head on the air bag? And why? Is there a why to my survival? Is the God that I do not believe in telling me my life really does have a purpose? Do I just have enough good karma that when the bad things happen to me they aren’t as bad as they could be? Or am I just so lucky that I ought to take a road trip to Reno or Vegas when I recover? I do not know, and to be honest I do not want to care. I do not want to care about the, “Why did I survive?” but I do. Every time I close my eyes and relive the crash, whether I want to think about it or not, I always come back to that question, “Why the hell did I live? Is there even a why?”

I firmly believe in Occam’s razor, that the simplest solution is probably the correct one. What is the simplest answer to my question, “Why did I survive?” Well in my opinion it’s “Because you still have work to do.” I will not trifle myself with questions about meaning or God, the way I see it I survived. Yes, I need to slow down, to recover, but I survived, so I can keep going, because like I said I have work to do.

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The Story’s Answer. Part 1

Wretched hours,
Cursed cliches yet
sinfully,
regrettably again,
I write these words
with a mind of conflict
and a heavy heart.
Thoughts and my body
twisted and wrangled
and always so mother
bloody
fucking
constant.
Find no pattern in these words,
yet please do,
For although there is no story here,
There indeed is,
and for there is no meaning,
There indeed is,
So please bare each mark and page, it is worth true.

Twelve long hours since sobrieties sting.
How can I not spur
the channel of my distressed feeling,
Nor the hour and window
on my due grace,
Yes, my grace,
my crutch,
my only source of please
and cleanse.
I have my own life
to lead now.
I will not bore you
with tedious greeting,
nor false salutations.

I dare ask,
Do we live through
our interests?
Do we define ourselves
victoriously through interests,
not hobbies,
a hobby involves effort.
Interests exist only
internally, yet can
be practiced externally.
There is no point in this coin-flip
of syntax.
Nor is their any
warranted merit.

NAY!
Nay and fie do
I say, nay do
I not say it as it
because it is truth.
Truth that is truth
is known but not spoken.
I dare not speak truth
and make it cliche.

Yet I must,
I am not compelled,
I am demanded.
This is my word,
their effort,
their work.
Hours slip and as I
sip my due reward,
my complacent self,
I am diluted,
I am withered,
I am dry, nevermore.
No, no such fate
is mine,
no such struggle
any
being’s dues.
Prisons are obsolete
and the self
is not self made.

You just didn’t build that,
you didn’t even build you!
You were made!
You were born!
You were named
and then you grew,
and you were labeled.
Labeled and such!
Yet you grew.
You grew despite
being a seed in
a salted Earth.
Robbed of your own
decision of self,
yet all are.
Beauty be had everywhere,
not where it is given,
but where it is.

Beauty,
and love.
These are what hold true,
this is what humans use to define
humans,
but when it is lost,
repressed,
or robbed,
Yes robbed dare say,
all if any,
results are disastrous.

You oppressors,
You may have your false comedian,
and your
phallic lie.
I, nay we, live in a world of truth,
heart, of people
and of soul,
of sweet creatures
both humble
and humbling,
The old adage is
it takes all kinds,
nay it does take all
kinds, to unite against that
of evil kinds.
Evil is NOT all.
Evil is real,
evil is a part of truth,
both accurate and fair,
but evil is not all,
It is rare.

Now begins what else
but a social ravage.
A peak and lost
in the sake of
and stream of time.
All souls suffer,
only by matters of degree,
but it matters
what degree that suffering
differs.
Nor are all sufferings
of the same hue.
Nor cut from
the same cloth.
I am no peaceful
extrovert.
I am guilty
and there is no
retribution to
the admission
of this guilt.

Nor is there any anger.
I do no wrong in life,
yet I have in history,
and in culture.
To some my tears
mean nothing.
And such is just.
Yes, such is just.
For despite any
progressive identity,
any self ascribed sorry,
is not a lie,
but can be empty.
Action, action, action,
but action IS a matter of privilege,
privilege is not supposed to be born.
It is to be earned.
It is, nay was reward.
Marx was right,
capital transcends social
but Marx was also wrong.
We all usually are.
I can think of
no greater sin
than standing up,
and daring to say
“I know.”

Not so. Such is
too harsh.
It is only wrong to assume one
knows all,
that one way
is THE way.

Understanding,
understanding,
knowledge is not
the pursuit of
gain nor profit
but the pursuit of understanding.

And after another
strike upon cupid,
and hope and child,
Christ did rise
off the cross,
Buddha did awaken.
I do dare ask
why such fake
deprivation,
yet I understand,
and I want
and I am.
Too long has a sense of
disposition,
a sense of the
self indulgent self,
that was not in fact indulging,
that was not in fact wrong,
No such repression will be my chain.
No such want haunts me.
But drives me.
These are the patterns
of my effort and thought,
that is my deed.

I am only that what I can be.
Self is only defined
by the self.
And sexual lust
and drive marches on.

Lust, lust,
Lust is no sin.
These so called
acts are deadly,
some yes,
some no,
Does lust not drive
us to love,
produce,
and create?
Does envy not improve
the self?
Don’t worry we all
know that greed is not good
and has no place.
Greed, is the only
true sin.
And sin, the very word
itself, is robbing of all humanity.
I grow sick of “sin”
I grow sick of
slut shaming.
I grow sick of
the acts that are true
yet get denied
or made pariah.
That is a true sin,
judgement is a sin,
because it benefits no human,
it transcends nothing.
Dare say such a word
in our weary 21st century?
Yes.
Dare say to transcend,
to embrace all of the
body physical and
emotional,
Spiritual even if
we wish to mark
territory uncontrived and so.

My lust grows with every hour.
I love it, I embrace it,
my body is not my temple,
it’s my party.
Sanctions roars of
sense and self,
out here in one
of the few bodies
of the free self
of the new idea
and new drive
that is not new but merely reborn.

I say merely for
a rebirth is no
big deal,
our birth and our rebirth is no
big deal,
our birth and our rebirths carry us on,
we learn,
yet some, even many,
do not.
The people are simple,
not stupid.
We do not need
any superior hand,
and yet we do
and yes I say we,
For my brothers,
my Sisters,
and all those out and in between,
WE, the grand,
We.

Strength is greatest in the individual,
and the community.
Balance is the pursuit of all life.
And the meaning of balance,
the pursuit of
semantics.
And what are semantics?
What is the meaning of meaning?
It means nothing,
yet it means everything.
Sexual lust and drive
The beauty of the body
Is the beauty of the world.
Innocence and sin in one moment
and form.
That is the body,
that is the lust.

What else is to be said?
What else is to be done?
Nothing and everything.
The story of life’s
first ambiguous chapter,
and the first chapter,
in this book,
it never ends.
However, it does.

Gramercy, The Journey of Jack Lewis. Chapter 3

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Chapter 3  Fresh Bacon

Jack had never had slept so comfortably in his entire life.  Usually he was in so much pain when he woke up in the morning that he needed either a shot of whiskey or a cigarette to make the pain go away.  For the first time in a while he woke up in high spirits.  It wasn’t either to the prison alarms or his mother’s angry fighting with his dad, or his mother’s crying, or his mother calling telling him his “lazy good for nothing ass needs to wake up so that he can get some kind a job and pull some fucking weight for once.”

This time, he awoke at 10, a more than comfortable hour for once, to the clitter and clatter of pots and pans and the delicious smell of frying bacon and scrambled eggs with pepper-jack cheese.  

FRESH bacon, an inconceivable luxury in the joint. Jack knew it was real cheese in the eggs he smelled to, the fake cheese they used in the pen reeked of grease and chemicals.

Jack got up yawning and walked to the kitchen, Kobe, Alex and Fiona were all at work at the same time making the delicious treats.  Jack offered his help but they assured him they had everything covered.  

“Bro don’t trip, we got it,” said Kobe with his usual smile.  “Go wait in the living room and pack a bowl, work up a good case of the munchies for a bomb-ass breakfast.”

Jack obeyed.  He wished there was some way he could help, but he settled for bong hits by himself in the living room.  Once the breakfast was served they all sat around the kitchen table with breakfast and a joint.  Kobe, Alex, and FIona carried on the conversations they would have if Jack was not normally there, and Jack just sat and smiled when everyone smiled and laughed when everyone laughed.  He pretended to know what they were talking about when they talked about SHpongle and Bass-Nectar.  Jack hadn’t followed music since he got locked up and the Crunk Hyphy “movement” was going on.  These were the conversations that reminded Jack he was an outsider, just a visitor.  He loved these three, but he could tell that he wasn’t intimate enough to be a part of the family.  He was more than welcome, he didn’t doubt that.  He just wasn’t an official member, more like an honorary one.  

But he enjoyed himself for now.  The three had decided to spend another day at the beach, and Jack they said was more than welcome to tag along.  He accepted, and they set out.

While in the car Jack decided to ask, “You know, I am a little short on cash at the moment, you guys wouldn’t happen to know where I could get a little work around here, at least for a few weeks?”

Kobe actually smiled, “Yeah, Actually, we have a job opportunity for you.”

Jack guessed, “Does it involve the giant crop in your guy’s cottage?”

“Yup,” Alex said from the passenger seat.

“Basically we need someone to sell our weed for us.  We are in school when we aren’t in the house taking care of the plants.  We already are sitting on a shit ton of crop that we haven’t moved,” Kobe said.  “The most we can manage to push is just an occasional quarter or ounce that that our friends buy.  You know, don’t get me wrong,” he conceded, “it’s nice of them to buy from us, but it only goes so far, you know?”

“I get it,” said Jack.  “You guys want me to peddle your weed for you while you’re in classes.”

“Exactly,” said Kobe.  “We’ve been looking for someone for a while, and since you’re crashing on the floor for now, consider it your rent, and we will give you 25 percent if that’s cool with you?”

Jack was more than cool with it. “Sound’s perfect.”

Jack enjoyed another day at the beach with his new friends, they then retired to the cottage to more weed and beer and a Bill Murray movie marathon.  The next day was Monday and the three had classes all day long.  So Jack got as much of one of the strains that was already dried, the first was Purple Kush, into sandwich baggies, weighing out grams, eighths, and quarters.  He then loitered outside local high schools, malls, and beaches, and anyplace else he could find teenagers.  He sold out before noon and had to make his way back to the cottage on foot to get more.  

He made four hundred in cash.  He got lucky and he knew it, but still Jack felt smug.  He couldn’t help but feel he had earned his keep.

Needless to say the three were thrilled that so much weed had been sold.

The next day was slower, much of his previous customers still had the weed from yesterday, but they all brought friends to Jack.  The weed was so good that word of mouth spread faster than Jack could expect.  

The third day was better than the first, the original customers were out by now, and so were the friends, and this time the other friends brought their friends.  

In less than one week Jack had pushed a pound of weed.

They decided to celebrate their new found success by showing Jack the party scene.  Everyone from school was going to this beach bonfire and so were they.  They had more Jack Daniels than anyone else at the party.  

Fiona and Kobe were off dancing together, Alex was with his girlfriend, and Jack was standing alone with some weed and taking swigs of a fifth of Jack Daniels.  Jack usually didn’t care about whether he was alone or not.  When random drunk college girls were rubbing up on him or talking to him, Jack just stood and didn’t react in the manner that the girls had wanted.  Jack was confused as to why he was so uninterested.  He had been in jail for such a long time that at night he felt like he could jump on any girl at any minute.  But now he was just uninterested, he couldn’t help but feel a little pathetic considering how many opportunities he had. College girls are already loose and being a thief and ex con gave him the danger angle, but he decided to just spend his time getting intoxicated and watching the crowd.

As he stood and people-watched, Jack could not help but reminisce about the parties he used to go to back in South Central.  They weren’t many differences, but the few that there were, were noticeable and not what Jack was accustomed to.  He was used to shit getting broken, fights breaking out, and know one used to share stuff, it used to be all BYOB and bring your own weed.  But in a college party the air seemed to be about sharing.  It was the goal of everyone not just to get fucked up, but to get everyone fucked up with them.

It wasn’t until the sirens and lights went off that the party came to its close.  Everyone made their way out, and got into their cars and drove off.

Kobe had a few drinks, but he was definitely sober enough to drive.  Alex was so drunk he forgot he was wearing pants, Fiona was in a girl drunk, she was giggly and slumped onto any shoulder she could, and since Jack was in the back seat he was the lucky winner of being her support beam.

They stumbled their way into their house, got into a circle and smoked a final joint for the night.  They all passed out almost in unison exactly where they slumped in the living room.

That night Jack dreamed of Alice, only in the dream she didn’t have her tattoo.

He then had another dream that he was still in prison, watching a guy get jumped in the courtyard during break.  Jack had lost count how many times he had seen that happen in real life.  But there was a big difference this time.  In his dream he could remember saying, “I wonder if he is okay.”