Saturday, February 18, 2012

Saturday Musings, 18 February 2012

Good morning,

The pleasant murmurings of a radio commentator barely ascend above the whirring of the furnace. Both remind me of the increasing weakness of my hearing. I move my chair closer to the one, fighting the intrusion of the other. The fat black cat purrs beside the register, casting a condescending look in my direction from time to time; in the bathroom, the old lady cat, my cancer survivor, yowls for me to turn on the spigot in the sink from which she drinks. Saturday morning, Brookside, business as usual.

The days assaulted me this week, long, heavy and onerous. I've come to the end of a ten-day stretch of unrelenting responsibility. From trial preparation to status conference appearances to house-keeping and cooking, my February has yet to afford any cozy mornings or quiet afternoons. I should not complain: In my profession, being busy should translate to being financially stable, and in the pointed words of a judge for whom I prosecute, decades ago, I woke up this morning, which puts me ahead of a lot of folks, so let's get this show started.

Coming around a city corner several days ago, my eyes shrank from the force of the afternoon sun, which sat at just the right angle to blaze in my window. For a derisive moment, I could not see the street over which I traversed, and I braked, full-strength, and sat behind the wheel for several long beats, transported back in time by a trick of my obsessive brain.

On 09 February 1982, I stepped from the curb on Wesport Road, halfway between Broadway and Pennsylvania in Kansas City, Missouri, into the path of a speeding VW Sirocco driven by a man from Persia who should have known the power of a setting sun on the sight of a Midwestern driver. His vehicle struck my left leg and threw me, by some uncanny trick of physics, straight up into the air. As my body rose, I told myself, protect your head, woman, and wrapped my arms around my bended knees, letting my head fall forward. Days later, a woman named Summer Shipp told me that she saw me fly past her office window on the second floor of what was then the Tivol theatre. Summer Shipp herself fell to a murderer's wrath, not long ago, half a life after she reached for her desk phone to call the police and report that a woman had just jumped from her roof, the way she perceived what she had seen.

I don't know how far I went above the street from which I had been catapulted. As I flew into the early evening sky, I rose higher than my corporal existence, and looked down upon my body. I saw the loose bun on the nape of my neck, falling out of its pins, sending spirals of auburn curls cascading over the brown suede coat into which I had huddled as I tried to cross Wesport Road. I saw the little shoes pulled onto my feet, kitten heels, the only dress shoes I owned, bought at Bob Jones Shoes for the job interview which I had had that day. I saw my arms tightly wound around my legs and the sharp bend of my knees.

I'm dead, I told myself, as I lazily contemplated my small body rising above the earth. I felt myself suddenly suffused with warmth, and light, and a sultry sense of laziness that I had not previously experienced. I lost interest in the sight of my body and raised my eyes, searching for the source of the brightness with which I was surrounded. And I saw a startlingly bright being, hovering in the air beside me, with an expression on its face that I perceived as unearthly kindness.

The being raised an arm, and placed its hand on my head. A calmness spread throughout me, mild, and sweet. I bent my arms, reaching my hands towards the form in front of me, ignoring my body in its cramped little knot, still rising, beneath me. I heard a serene voice which seemed to come from the being that I faced: It's not time yet. And then the hand upon my head gently pushed downward, and I snapped back into my body, and found myself rapidly falling.

I smashed into the hood of the car that had hit me and flew into his windshield, bent knees first, and the glass and my right leg simultaneously shattered. The vehicle suddenly stopped, and my body, still with my arms wrapped around my bent legs, flew forward eight-two feet from the front of the wrecked VW. I landed on the street with a sickening thud, and lay, still, unmoving, unaware of the dropped jaw of the neighborhood cop standing on the sidewalk to which I had been crossing, a hot coffee forgotten and sagging in his hand.

The world stopped turning, briefly. The unfortunate driver sat behind the wheel of his car, regretting his decision to leave Iran and come to America, to move to Kansas City, and drive a car on which he had no insurance. Summer Shipp froze at the window of her office, and the cop on his beat failed to notice that his coffee had drained from its paper cup. A small gaggle of nurses stopped on the threshold of a bar where they intended to spend happy hour. In the midst of it all, I lay, stunned, unmoving, thinking only, Well, I guess I'm not going to die of a head injury, anyway.

The wail of the approaching ambulance snapped the world from its stupor. Miss Shipp ran to the inner stairwell of her theatre and burst out onto the street. One of the nurses shrugged out of her coat and spread it over me. Do you think we should get her out of the street, a frantic voice asked, and I spoke, for the first time, startling those who were not convinced that I had survived. Don't you people watch television! Never move someone who might have a neck injury!

At the same time, I realized that my vision had blurred. I repeatedly passed my hand in front of my face, prompting someone to speculate that I might be hysterical. I think I lost a contact lens, I told the woman who by now had crouched down beside me, holding her body over mine, shielding me from the chilly winter air. And the paramedics descended from their rig, and my ethereal savior retreated, back to its heavenly perch, or wherever the Angel of Life spends its time when it is not immediately needed.

Beside me, the phone rings. My best friend asks for my help today, moving the house-fire victim whose personal belongings we tried to save from their smokey damaged confines two weeks ago. The cat is yowling to get back into the house, and I hear my stepson sliding closed the pocket door on the hallway bathroom.

On 09 February 2012, thirty years after the car accident in which I shed not one drop of blood, I left the house and went to work. It was the first time since that day when I had not spent the anniversary huddled in my home, sheltered by one pretense or another. I made a conscious decision not to succumb to fear born of superstition. Ironically, my office building stands about two blocks from the scene of that accident, and I pass through the intersection several times a week, if not daily. But I've never gone to the scene of the event on the anniversary of its occurrence before this year, for the simple reason that I have never left the house on February 9th since that day.

This year, I had lunch in Westport and parked my car near the exact spot on which I had parked that day. I crossed the intersection just a few feet from where the car had struck me. I glanced at the second story window from which Summer Shipp had seen me, and thought about the terrible fate she met at the hands of a terrible murderer who threw her body into a river where it was not found for several years. I looked at the restaurant that occupies the storefront to which I was intending to go that day. I thought about my bartender friend whom I had been planning to visit. I glanced to the east, at the intersection from which the car had turned, into the setting sun, which blinded him and kept him from realizing that just a few feet ahead, I was jaywalking without a thought in my brain that what I was doing might be dangerous.

Later that day, I went to my gentle yoga class. I stretched my artificial knee and turned the taut ankle of my somewhat atrophied right leg. I closed my eyes, and reached towards the ceiling with my extended palms, and turned my face upward. And for a brief moment, I felt again the presence of that being, who suffused me with a light more wonderful than I could have imagined, and softly bade me to go on living.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

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The Missouri Mugwump™

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I've been many things in my life: A child, a daughter, a friend; a wife, a mother, a lawyer and a pet-owner. I've given my best to many things and my worst to a few. I live in Brookside, in an airplane bungalow. I'm an eternal optimist and a sometime-poet. If I ever got a poem published in The New Yorker, I would die a happy woman. I'm a proud supporter of the Arts in Kansas City. I vote Democrat, fly the American flag, cry at Hallmark commercials, and recycle.