Friday, January 18, 2008

What's the Opposite of Aftermath?

I know it must be some totally obvious word. Pre...something?

Last night I saw the before and after(math) of an accident. I was driving home from a meeting in Next State Up, going a reasonable 65-70 in the middle lane of the freeway, when a light-colored sedan flew by me in the slow lane. Both G and I commented on it immediately, it was going that fast, on a fairly crowded freeway, must have been at least 85 or 90. G had been saying earlier that evening that she was going to learn to drive this year, so we talked a bit about how not to drive, and how fast he was going.

After a few sentences of that conversation, we went back to our previous conversation for a few sentences, maybe 30 seconds, a minute, and all of a sudden the traffic was stopped. "What the hell," I said, and then we both realized there was an accident, and as quickly realized it must have been him (why the gender assumption?). There were three cars on the side, the middle one a light-colored sedan, and first I thought that was it, but then we saw people getting out of their cars and looking over the guardrail. G saw a piece of car on the side of the road. I think he went right off the road and over the edge.

We didn't stop. There was nothing we could do, it was late and we wanted to be home, the idea was too upsetting. We called 911, G on my phone, and me chattering at her: which freeway, which exit, what we saw. They said other calls were coming in and they took G's phone number. We tried to remember how high up that part of the freeway is. There were tops of trees.

I dropped G off and went home. There was nothing on the news, nothing in the paper this morning, I can't find anything online. How do you find out what happened? Sometimes I wonder if it even happened. I know we saw it, but did he really go over the guardrail, when we'd just seen him speeding down the road? Did those people getting out of their cars try and rescue him before help came? Is he in the hospital? Dead? Did he have a family? Was there anyone else in the car? Why was he driving so fast?

All we know is what happened right before and right after.

The briefest intersection of lives, and ours just go on.


Libby said...

lead-up? Preamble?* I agree that there's no doubt something better--but how horrifying. I can't think how often I've thought that MIGHT happen, but I've never witnessed it quite so directly.

*Roget's suggests initiation and origin, among others, as near-antonyms of aftermath.

Lucy said...

I had a strangely similar experience about three years ago, with both kids in the car. Car behind was way too close, drove into opposite lane to pass, and caused head-on collision right next to our car.

It was horrifying and strangely abrupt. Rugelah was shaking and people were injured, but the aftermath was still bizarre. It felt awful, and then it was gone.

Hope you had a good glass of wine to follow.