The Crash

Two immigrants, one accident

I decided to take the street with the stop lights. It’s safer, I thought. I arrived to my first stop. The light was green, so I continued driving. I turned my head to the left. Suddenly, I saw the unexpected — a car coming at me very fast. I saw two men talking in the car. There was no way to avoid the inevitable. It was going to hit me. I turned around to look at the stop light to see if I had done something wrong, but it was still green. I turned to look at my body. I felt my life hanging on a thread. A feeling of horrible uncertainty caught hold of me. Then came a loud noise, a strong shake, and a crash.

When I woke up earlier that morning, I felt unusually grateful for my body. I’d recently written a story about a woman, Sara Granda, who became a quadriplegic after a car accident. Her story, though inspiring, made me sad and appreciative of my health. That morning, my bed felt warm, and I did not want to leave it. But an Easter weekend full of exciting activities was waiting for me in the Bay Area. I wanted to be on time for a hike, so I got up. Everything was packed. I took a quick shower and prepared my addictive strawberry smoothie.

I pray in the mornings while walking: The Lord’s Prayer and the Hail Mary. That morning, I did not have time, but before I left my apartment, I ran to see the image of the Virgin Mary. My fingers reached her and I begged, “Please help me today!”

I filled my gas tank and got some cash. And then I picked the street with the stop lights where a crash was waiting for me.

After the impact, I looked down at my body. I was whole. I tried to open my car door, but I could not. Since I was blocking the intersection, I decided to move my car to the side of the road. This required a lot of strength since my steering wheel had locked and my front wheel had ruptured. Finally I parked and cried.

Out of nowhere, in the early and cold morning, a man showed up and asked me if I was okay. He called 911 and offered to be my witness.

The taxi driver that hit me was on the other corner. He did not approach. His passenger ran away.

Another man showed up. He said the taxi driver did not stop at the red light and was driving the wrong way on a one way road. He tried to make me talk, but I was shaking and tearful. He went to chase down a Police patrol that had passed without seeing us.

The taxi driver approached to me. He said that I should have sped when I saw him coming towards me. It was hard for us to understand one another since we’re both immigrants. I asked him, “How long have you been a taxi driver?” “One year,” he said. He added that he would probably lose his job after the crash.

Two patrol cars come to the scene. They were very kind and helpful. I normally feel fearful when I see police officers. This time I felt safe. A female officer asked me how I felt. I said that I did not have physical injuries but that my nerves were shot.

Paper work was done. The police officers and my witnesses did everything. My broken car was towed.

I would have been in San Francisco by now. Instead, I am on a tow truck.

I started to think how we make plans and sometimes they change without prior warning. Distractions when we drive can destroy lives.

I started to feel very sleepy. I slept all evening. When I woke up, my body felt sore. I still feel sad but I think I should be very happy. I could now be in a hospital or dead.

One of my dearest friends told me that I was born again. “Yes!” I said and, “I am a baby!” I replied. And from the tears, I started to laugh again.

Araceli Martínez Ortega

Araceli Martínez Ortega

Araceli Martínez Ortega is a Mexican journalist who has lived in California in the last nine years. This collaboration is about her personal journey through Las Americas and wherever she goes.
Araceli Martínez Ortega

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