The following is the second part in a seven-part essay about two disastrous years in the author’s life. We will be posting a new installment every Monday. In this chapter, the author gets hit by a car.
Here is part one.
I’m walking to the Berkeley Bowl one day and a Zipcar driver stops, looks to see the people on the other end of the street aren’t crossing, but fails to see that I’m right in front of him, trying desperately to make eye contact through the black abyss of the windshield. I think like, “Man, really?” as if my laptop were shutting down unexpectedly or someone has just cut in front of me in line. That low-level inconvenient feeling could have been the last thing I ever felt.
My head hits the car’s hood and the front bumper hits me just below the knees. I fall backward onto the pavement. I stand up, spit out blood, and call an ambulance. I’m sure I’ve lost a tooth, but the blood is coming from a cut inside my mouth. My glasses stay intact, but the cheap red sunglasses I was wearing lie in pieces in the middle of the road next to clumps of my hair.
The driver who hit me is about my age. He has a shaved head and wears a T-shirt with a lightning bolt on it, like Skeeter Valentine. He seems very concerned but never registers the accident with Zipcar, and pretends not to know me when I call him weeks later: “I don’t know who this is. Don’t call here anymore. I’m good, dude.” He skips town when I try to serve him with a court date.
I spend the summer limping around, trying to get the police report, going to physical therapy, trying to find an insurance company that doesn’t consider being run over by a car a preexisting condition, and applying for camp-counselor jobs that want absolutely nothing to do with me. I end up working from home– still at Sarah’s– for astonishingly little money as a judge for a screenplay contest. I read scripts on PDF files all summer, 90- to 200-page pedantic nightmares written by possible psychopaths, often with bad grammar and spelling, about gangsters and dominatrixes and sexy wolf-people and sexy lion-people and clowns and genital mutilation and hails of gunfire.
There are also some that are not fun to read.
Physical therapy, it turns out, is a place where great athletes go after tearing their ACL during a heroic touchdown. It is not a place for poindexters who’ve had their asses run over while in pursuit of Chinese dumplings. Nervous, athletic, young men and women in white polos lecture me on my posture.
“What do you do for a living?”
“I’m a writer.”
“Oh, that’s not good.”
They have me stretch my arms with a large rubber band and lie atop a foam cylinder and roll back and forth. They give me exercises to do at home: open a door, put your hands on either side of the doorway, and push your body forward; put your index and middle finger on your chin and move your head back without moving your shoulders; get on your hands and knees on your bed and arch your back up and down. The physical therapists massage me, which is mostly painful. There are endless different flavors of pain between sharp and dull, equivalent to sour, sweet, umami, pungent, astringent, metallic, fatty, hearty, the pain of being kicked in the balls, the pain of stubbing your toe, the pain of being pistol-whipped in the face, the pain of a broken heart, the pain of breaking someone else’s heart, the pain of grief—and they can all be triggered by a massage therapist touching your back in certain ways.
One weekend, I’m so busy with the scripts that I plan an all-nighter. We’re out of coffee, and I go to a market closer to my house than the one with the potstickers. I accidentally buy coffee with cardamom in it, and I drink a great deal of it that weekend before coming to terms with the fact that it tastes like medical waste and I don’t even have money for more coffee. I start staying over at my girlfriend Amanda’s place most nights, watching Netflix with her and her roommate’s ornery cat, and in the morning, after normal Peet’s coffee, which she makes with a French press, she sees me out the door and asks, “Do you have everything?”
And I say, “Yes.”
Here is Circle Three.