Elisa Albert | Longreads | April 2020 | 22 minutes (5,474 words)
The first time I get rear-ended is at a stoplight on the corner of Central and North Lake, around 4pm. One minute I’m on my way to school pickup, the next minute I’m disoriented and sobbing. The at-fault is a 19-year-old dude in a Jeep full of friends. He is nonplussed. He asks, without affect, whether I am okay.
“No!” I scream. “What the fuck?”
My car is badly damaged. I can’t stop sobbing. No airbags deployed. I am worried the dude will get back into his car and flee, so I photograph his license plate in haste, and call the cops. I cannot for the life of me stop crying. My rage and fear and shock and sadness are a tangle. The Jeep doesn’t have a scratch on it. It’s raining. The dude and his friends huddle under a shop awning, laughing.
The cop tells me to calm down: “It’s not that big a deal, ma’am.”
Later, when I call the cop oversight office to suggest that this particular cop go fuck himself, the oversight officer will watch the body cam footage and promise to speak to the cop in question about sensitivity in traumatic situations.
For some reason, I refuse an ambulance. (“Some reason”, ha: I am more terrified of institutional health care than I am of getting back into a smashed up car and driving away with whiplash and a concussion.)
I spend days in bed, in the dark, alternating heat and ice. A haze of phone calls from insurance agents, a hailstorm of Advil, rivers of CBD hot freeze.
You can get rear-ended anywhere. It wasn’t Albany’s fault, per se. But it’s so easy to blame Albany. Fucking Albany! This was God’s way of telling me I’ve done my time in this hopeless shithole of a city, right? Or maybe this was God’s way of punishing me for never utilizing public buses. Or maybe this was God’s way of shaming me for having my kid in private school. The thinks you think when you’re stuck in bed, in the dark, without distraction, for days on end! Meditation is a billion times harder than crossfit, and constructions about “God” are tough epigenetic habits to break.