Monday, June 4, 2012
I drove down the I-45 westbound towards San Diego. I was headed toward the mall, which was just a few more miles down the long five-lane stretch of smooth cement. I had slept in and eaten a quick breakfast, spent an hour on my hair and on finding just the right clothes that might help me sell designer sunglasses.
I was well past morning rush hour traffic and there were only a few cars following behind me- there were none in front of me for as far as I could see. I approached the I-860 overpass 100 feet away. It was a relatively new freeway that gently curved perpendicularly to the I-45. Every day that I drove this stretch of road I looked up at the overpass, drawn to it for some reason.
Today there was a car parked on the overpass. A thought occurred to me- it was more like a stamp of words rather than a sequential string- ‘I’ve never seen a car parked there, someone must have a flat tire.’
As quick as this thought marked me, I saw a white man in a dark blue suit come around the side of the parked car. He had on a bright blue shirt which contrasted nicely with the deep rich color of his blazer and matching pants- the collared shirt was the same color as the sky on a bright sunny southern California day.
My car continued forward without my attention and I watched as he approached the overpass rail. In a second, without a moment of hesitation, he swung his legs over the side of the metal rail and jumped.
The wind pressure pushed his body towards the eastbound lanes of the freeway below. He floated like a lightweight doll, his limbs moving like thin flower petals in the breeze. His blazer rippled like stunted blue wings- flapping but catching almost no resistance. I turned away almost instinctively as his body approached the asphalt, each cell of my body knowing I could not handle the image of impact.
I pulled my car over beneath the overpass. In the shade of the overpass where his last moments had been, I fumbled for my cell phone within the leather body of my oversized purse. His body lay contorted fifty feet away in the eastbound lanes.
A few scattered cars passed by, diverting quickly as they saw the obstacle in their path. The driver who had been behind me had pulled over too.
I tried to hold onto the phone but my fingers were numb and tingling. I opened the car door and stumbled along the freeway’s edge, holding onto the side of the car for support. I made my way just behind the car and fell into the dirt. My entire body was shaking. Then the tears burst out.
I felt an arm close to me and realized it was the other driver. I could not stop shaking, rocking, I could not get any words out.
“The police are coming,” he said.
He got my cell phone from the car and I tried to call Maxwell, Sydney, my parents. Nobody answered immediately. Eventually my mom called back.
I tried to explain what had happened, but I was crying so hard I was not sure she understood.
“Listen Doris,” my mom said, “are you and the car ok?’
“I’m fine mom, I mean, I’m not hurt, but it’s horrible.’
“Look, listen to me, you just need to go to work and show them you’re a tough cookie, you can’t let everything bother you. You might feel better if you go.”
Pure rage came over me and I hung up the phone, my mom could never say the right things. I called my boss and sobbed into the phone, barely letting her know what had happened.
“Don’t worry about coming in, just take care of yourself.”
A few minutes later a swarm of police were close to us. I tried to describe what happened. I could not get it out of my head, it repeated like a loop, he just put his legs over the side and a second later he was going over. He didn’t stop to think about it.
“So you saw it happen?” one of the officers asked.
He had a wide chest and frame, I looked up at him like a gnome in a forest of giant redwoods. I nodded, trying to speak but only water came from my eyes.
I cried some more. More officers came up to me, they wanted the details. I kept crying and they sat me back down on the ground.
A chaplain, a woman with very pale brown hair and dark blue clothes came towards me. She sat next to me and took my hands and then I melted into her arms. I cried and she let me cry.
I looked up at her and asked: “Are you a mom?”
"No," she said. “But I want to be.”
“My parents are just so different. They asked me if I was okay. They asked if the car was ok. They asked me that several times. Then they told me I should go to work and put a smile on my face. Can you believe that? I called my boss and she was understanding, she said- just take care of yourself Doris. Why can’t my mom do that?”
“Everyone has different ways they react to these kind of things.”
“Yeah, but my mom is a social worker.”
“Maybe she is around this type of thing a lot. Maybe it’s normal to her.”
Everyone told me not to drive, but I got into the car and went to work. I couldn’t go home, the freeway going in the other direction was closed.
As I entered the building the store manager saw me- she took one look at me and led me into her office while she contacted my supervisor. They had me call Sydney so she could drive me home.
My mom kept calling over and over. I was mad at her for telling me to put a smile on my face. I was mad that the guy jumped. I was mad that someone wanted me to see that. Why had god wanted me to see that? I spent the rest of the day crying and asking the same questions over and over again.
Who had planned all of it? Why they want me to see this?