Have you ever been in an airborne car?
I suppose that’s a tender question to ask anyone, for what can be left of such an experience but an inordinate measure of having suffered, of having endured terror – of having being unwillingly married to a suffocating fear? Even if the particular individual was somehow fortunate enough to have avoided any serious bodily harm, their psyche can’t help but be scarred – most probably for a lifetime.
Unless, of course, their name happens to be Starsky, or Hutch, or Bo, or Luke – or perhaps Speed.
We’ve all encountered the flashing lights, seen the pieces of metal and plastic strewn across the pavement. We've witnessed the gawkers on the curb, bunched like cold pigeons, their imaginative little hearts racing, passing through the streets of a Technicolor city – white slashes on red.
We might even have seen a crumpled body – a confusion of arms and legs, distracted from a lonely torso.
Sometimes, chances willing, the body is lucky, merely left hunched on the step of a paramedic van, sipping hot chocolate, a blanket over its shoulders, searching its cell phone for the number of its insurance agent, practicing contrite – fearing the devastating new premium.
The traffic accident you slowly, humbly, ever so respectfully roll by, is your mother yanking the band-aid from your eight year-old arm, that sharp reminder of an almost inevitable suffering awaiting all of us – by one means or the other – unless we are one of the fortunate who leave this mortal domain on the whisper of sleep’s design, fat and happy, a canary singing sweetly in a cage – someone beautiful sharing our pillow.
The rest of us must live in eternal anticipation of the stomach dropping, as the horizon suddenly twists and turns, setting road signs and trees sideways, tipping the clouds from the blue, sending sparks along the unnoticed guardrail, throwing passenger into driver – the wheel now a lost child, spinning frantically in an indifferent crowd, searching for the comfort of home, the reaching hand of a parent.
There is a burst of glass.
You realize a roar in your ears as the outside world is sucked in, even as you begin to feel yourself heading out, the rough hem of your seatbelt digging hard at your neck.
But, really, who can remember such things?
Your face slams into the dashboard, your jaw splintering, four thousand dollars of dental work lost in a second, a streak of pain riding the space just behind your eyes. (We’ll presume this is a car built before 1993, bereft of airbag) You bounce free, your head traveling a sickening arc that leaves you thick within a spider’s web of safety glass, your cheeks peppered with tiny wedges of green-edged windshield, a cold sensation trickling down your spine.
And guess what?
You’re one of the lucky ones.
Your wife stays home to look after you.
You get to eat dinner through a silly straw, the envy of your kids – and all their friends.
And – perhaps best of all – you don’t have to endure Mr. Dithers, chasing you around your desk, threatening to murder you for dropping the ball on the Henderson account.
But – and here’s the rub Mr. Lottery Winner – your life is never the same.
If the back brace wasn’t symbol enough of the day your tires escaped the road – your jigsaw smile more than suffices to render you a mute and inactive witness to society’s contented ramble into tomorrow.
Nothing like testing the breadth of that company health coverage, is there?
And, yet, just think of it – you get to replay that strange afternoon – over and over again – reliving the numbness you felt in your fingertips, the day you shattered your jaw and broke your back out near Pacific Palisades, opening your eyes to a red sun hiding behind the embarrassing disclosure of a decapitated cedar tree – only a block from a house Bruce Willis used to live in – or so they say – never trust a USC student hawking star guides, especially if she’s dressed like an American Apparel model and tells you her name is Pretty.
Oh, and I know, you have your prescriptions, your brightly-colored little friends – Val and Codi and Mary Jane – but even they can bare only so much – even they have to retreat and let you take the wheel one more time, your moist palms sliding helplessly over ribbed plastic, your chassis groaning as it climbs atop gravity, pushing limbs aside, the intoxicating scent of sap rushing in on cool air, the passenger window exploding before the sudden entreaty of the terra cotta hand, holding its fan of needles – perfuming your descent into hell.
I think maybe, just maybe, Aaron Spelling was holding back on you a little bit during those ninety-three episodes – don’t you?