My mouth had struck so hard that some of my teeth remained embedded in the steering wheel where the EMS team had to literally pick them out. This was the scene and it wasn’t pretty. Allow me to repeat that, my mouth had struck so hard that some of my teeth remained embedded in the steering wheel. Some other teeth had fallen to the floor uprooted from their home, they would never be the same.
From my lower lip to my chin there was nothing but serrated flesh, it had been completely ripped apart – gaping wide open – revealing my gums and the jagged dentin that remained. My smile no longer ruled. Just raw nerves totally exposed, and shocked as hell to be disconnected from their dominion. My jaw was now gazing out in all its glory and menacing in a world where it had no business and I would surely pay the price. It was a freakish and bloodied mess. What had I done?
“Thank God, she must have blacked out,” I heard someone say. Who are they talking about? I was lying on this cold hard road, rocks poking me in all the wrong places. Where am I? The next thing I know, I was on top of a flat board. My body, bruised and battered. My thoughts mangled worse than the twisted steel that wrapped cordially around the telephone pole. The scissors clawed at my clothes, first pressing against each of my legs to cut my jeans and then on my belly to remove my sweater – off they came. I could feel the razor-sharp brisk air envelop my stark naked body. Then I am swiftly covered to keep me from freezing. The blanket that rested on me was so heavy, it could have carried the weight of my troubles. Or maybe it was so dense because soon they’d be taking me to get x-rays. No matter, it was warmth for me now. Here, in the middle of this cold December night.
During this time of crisis I thought of some of the zaniest things: No, no – please not my good jeans – they make me look one size smaller. Please, not my brand new winter coat – I just got that. SAVE IT! Shit, I don’t have underwear on! Mom is going to kill me if I don’t die from this accident. Am I going to die? I was completely mindless to my mother’s cardinal rule: always wear clean underwear in case you get in accident…and here I am, in an accident – I had blown it. These rambling thoughts came to me as my body laid there senseless, motionless. My mind was blazing.
Meanwhile my head was conformed to a straight jacket of sorts, a type of head muzzle to keep me from moving. And I was confined to looking straight ahead, which happened to be up at that particular moment, peering in on this black night sky. The stars, on a crystal clear night catch you looking and scream out – look at me! Look at me! Why don’t I pay more attention to them? But the rest of my body was just numb. Tremors shuddered through me and then I puked. Some of the puke was rolling onto me, dripping off my chinless wound and onto the blanket now. All I could do was probe with my eyes, head and body strapped down – looking dead on to the big dipper.
Thankfully, my eyesight was working at 100%, that is – when they were actually open. I was trying to make sense of what was going on around me. And it was useless. I would come in and out of consciousness, like watching snippets of a movie as you fall in and out of sleep. Only this time being awake meant horrific and excruciating pain piercing through me continuously, my brain working to ration the misery. The accident happened so fast but immediately following, the world around me moved in slow motion. I could hear the helicopter blades motor nearby, pulsating through the air. The dust and debris disturbed on this night. Oh God – what had I done?
The man asked me repeatedly, “What is your name?” Each time I heard him, but the answer strained to come out of me. Finally I answered out loud and began to feel panic overwhelm me. He must’ve known what I was thinking because he said, “Don’t worry, you’re going to be okay. We’ll take care of you.” I was unconscious the whole trip, flying high to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma downtown, while the world slumbered somberly beneath me.
The institutional lights were blinding, but the metallic stars and spots that appeared on the under side of my eyelids soothed me. I was being wheeled in a hospital now and the people surrounding my bed were whispering. I had gadgets and lines hooked to me from damn near every orifice owned, or so it seemed. I could barely hear these people- had my other senses gone mad and abandoned me? At least I could still see, although for the time being it was limited to dead ahead. Turn the lights out! I could taste dried blood take refuge in my mouth. Remnants from my night’s worth of beverage choices lingered. The overpowering stench of alcohol mingled with the vomited liquor and confirmed that my sense of smell and taste were in tact. I needed to whet my whistle right now. And that very thought provoked more soluble chunks to rise up again. I wanted no part of this. Finally I heard the people around my bed speaking, working.
My tongue probed its way around the inside and outside of my mouth trying to assess the damage. It was an impossible task. The ravaged and fleshy wound was raw from this savage attack. What had I done?
I was totally hammered, I blew something so ridiculous on the breathalyzer test that I blocked that out too. And I was stone cold sober when I heard that news. The alcohol consumption alone should have left me for dead. My car totaled, my life a wreck. I cannot imagine what would have happened if I had implicated another life. It started out innocent enough with a beer or two at a Christmas party, no big deal. I had final exams that week in my sophomore year of college and maintained a full-time job and a part-time job as a full-time student. In addition, I was socially active and thought I could do it all and have it all. The shots of Jack Daniels during a friendly game of quarter put me over the edge though and paralyzed my thinking process this night. I never even liked Jack! The aroma of it is so potent that it still triggers me to this very day; singeing my nostril hairs, making my body cringe, reminding me of the scene.
Then I see my parents walking toward me in the hospital. I was 21 now, one month into the whole legally drinking thing. My Father and Mother come to me and are there by my side. In and out my mind fades. Mom could barely look at me but when she does I see terror come over her. All my business was out there for them to witness – their baby: gaping jaw; jagged, missing teeth; cocktail chunks slithering, lingering about and the nauseating fragrance that even I couldn’t stand. Their baby, bloodied and completely exposed, awaiting surgery. “Why didn’t you call?” I hear my Dad ask as tears gather in his eyes. My eyes fill and then it really, truly dawns on me: look at what I have done!
Inside my mind races and I am shouting: I am sorry. I am so sorry. I don’t know why I didn’t call. I don’t know why! I am so sorry. I’m an idiot. Please, please don’t be mad. Please. I love you guys! But nothing comes out.
This was the parental nightmare for them. The phone call in the middle of the night. A 3 a.m. wakeup call, your daughter has been air lifted to shock trauma, the car has been totaled. They imagine the worst, nothing short of death. No warning, no reason – my own stupidity. And I lose time again because for that moment the physical pain becomes secondary to the emotional pain that I caused. Still, my paralyzed body relaxes somewhat because I can feel my Mom and Dad clutching my hands tight. They are scared for me now but they are here.
I was in oral surgery for more than four hours, but it felt as though it had been days. They could not give me any anesthesia or drugs to numb me because of all the alcohol I consumed. They were taking the teeth they had collected from the scene, and almost like an experiment, jamming them back into their rightful sockets. Some could not be saved. I continued convulsing and puking throughout this time as my body was feeling the brunt of the trauma. Agony shuddered through me. It was like a living hell and my body trembling and in shock. My nerves were ripe and tender and my belligerent screams for mercy rumbled through the unusually quiet halls of the hospital that night like an isolated thunderstorm rolling through on a bright, sunny afternoon. Blanking in and out because I was delirious with pain, suffocating from the stench of myself and intoxicated by this tremendous guilt.
Why didn’t I call?