There was only blackness
– And then I opened my eyes.
At first everything was blurry. Blackness and lights dancing together, all I knew in that moment, as things came back into focus, was the stars on the canvas of the night sky. I felt peace for a moment, mesmorized by something beautiful. Unaware of anything else..
Then I blinked. I blinked again – my eyelids like wings fluttering. It was a landscape of stars that greeted me. The stars in the sky were an old and gentle friend, a soft awakening. They were the same stars that have been beacons throughout my lifetime. They were as brilliant and beautiful as I had ever seen them. And for a moment, they were all I knew. They twinkled overhead, dancing in conversation with one another on the dark canvas of the night sky. I wondered what they were saying? I always liked to imagine that when they pulsated with intensity they were communicating with one another in a language I would only ever marvel at. But on this night – I began to feel as if they weren’t speaking with one another, but to me directly. Like a friend begging me to get up.
Like they were trying to warn me of something.
Unease gripped me.
Confusion came in waves as my senses returned in fragmented bursts of information, like a puzzle piecing itself together. I could smell pavement, and grass. Sounds filtered into my peripheral, a steady whirring like a river nearby. With my increasing consciousness came the awareness of my body, and the pain in it. I was lying on my back, the surface under me was cold, and hard, and uncomfortable. My head was throbbing. My body was on fire.
I was afraid to even move, but I didn’t remember why. It felt as if something important had happened – but I didn’t remember what it was.
And then I heard the sound of someone crying, and I realized I wasn’t alone. I rolled onto my side in the direction of the sound. There was a pile of something crumpled up on the ground next to my head, and ten feet past it on an unlit paved pathway, I saw the silhouette of a man, crouched down, his body heaving with tears – tears that came to an abrupt stop as soon as he sensed my movement. He turned his head, and saw me, and then he stood and began to approach me.
“I’m sorry.” He kept saying as he neared me. “I’m so sorry. It wasn’t supposed to happen like that.” He reached down, and grabbed my arm and began to pull me to my feet. My arms and legs felt foreign, and clumsy. He reached down again, and picked up the pile on the ground, and began thrusting it into my arms.
I began to recognize where I was. I was in Everett. I was near my apartment – on the interurban trail – and the whirring sound I had been hearing was not a river, it was interstate 5, on the other side of a sound wall.
“It wasn’t supposed to be like that.” He said. He was crying again. It was too dark to see his features. I saw a street light on the 112th overpass but it was too far away to offer any. Fear was rising in me. I looked down at what he had given me, felt fabric against my fingertips, and I realized it was my clothing. I was filled with understanding as I saw I was naked from the waist down.
As the memories returned to me my unease and fearfulness transformed into a rage, and while one arm fumbled to put my sweatpants on, my other reached out to keep him at a distance, “GET AWAY FROM ME!” I shouted . “Get the FUCK away from me.”
I was on my feet now. I wasn’t caught off guard this time. Adrenalin surged through my veins, as I stoop upright. Redressed. I no longer felt pain, or fear. I was angry. I was still in the fight.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” He kept saying.
He was dangerous. I postured, ready to fight in a style that had no rules, in a ring that had no refree to jump in and put a stop to it. “Get away from me.” I warned him. I stepped forward, taking my ground back, and he surrendered in a step backwards, dropped his arms to his side and began sobbing again. “GET AWAY FROM ME – GO! GO!” I shouted.
And then he turned around, and he walked away, still uttering tearful apologies. My eyes followed him until he was out of sight.
And there I found myself. Petrified. Aware that it wouldn’t be over until I was somewhere safe. That I needed help. That I couldn’t stay there.
“You need to walk.” I told myself. The fire station. Silver Lake fire station was nearby. Start walking.
It was my birthday. My 39th.
I’ll be 44 this year. I’m still alive. And I’m glad to be.
Do you remember the moment you were glad you survived?
I do too.