It happened so fast; All I remember is before and after. Those moments, I will definitely recollect for the rest of my life. Before was ever so unsuspecting. The crash itself, no matter how many times I think about it, or thought about it in the following months, I could not recall a single millisecond of the actual collision. What it sounded like, what it felt like, what I saw.
I remember the hot Texas sun beating down on me, sitting in the passenger seat, the smell of an old car air conditioner lingering. I remember getting in the car, thinking about my destination, which was Tae Kwon Do. We had just started going to the adult classes and I was solely worried about the difficult workout to follow. Not to mention, I had to go pee. I was worried about holding it, in the Austin traffic. I was reading one of my comfort books, City of Glass, from The Mortal Instruments Series, and listening to book-reading-music, “Cruel World,” by Lana del Rey.
My step mother, Sloan, asked my little brother, Tarak, if he had his seatbelt on because he was laying down to nap. No reply. She looked back to check on him, and took her foot off the break for just a second. I was focusing on my book, when suddenly my face stung and burned as if someone had slapped me a thousand times.
I don’t remember putting my hands up to cover my face, but they were there, and I thought if I took them away, I would be in more pain. I kept them there, while screaming and screaming and screaming. We pulled over, and Sloan told me to take my hands off my face. When I did, they were soaked in tears I didn’t know I had shed. Tarak was unhurt and so was Sloan. The ambulance ride felt years long and my eyes were being repeatedly washed out. They asked me what my pain level was from one to ten and I said seven. The fear made me forget how badly I had to pee.
At the hospital, they made me take off my clothes and put on a gown. The car was totalled, but it was old and we were planning on getting a new one soon anyway. My dad joked, “If you wanted a car so badly, you should’ve just told me.” They tested my eyesight (which was blurry, but only the paramedics promised it was only temporary), and they gave me multiple eye ointments and drops to use for the following week or so. Finally as we were checking out, I was able to pee.
The next day I went shopping and spent the night with my friends, and they almost made me forget about it. The only reminders were the fading sting on my face and the annoyingly sympathetic looks. The worst part was that every time I thought about it, I wanted to cry, and it just kept popping up in my mind at the worst times, like when someone asked me politely about it, or when I got startled in any way. At night I purposefully tried to think about the accident to get it out of my system. That did not work. All I could think about was the actual crash. The part I couldn’t remember. That drove me crazy. When I tried to remember the few milliseconds of collision that actually happened, I was hit with the image of me screaming with my hands covering my face, burning and hurting.
I remember when I was younger, I would jump out and scare my older brother. Whenever he tried to scare me, I didn’t get startled. I loved how frustrated he would get. For months after the crash, any loud noise or risky turn in a car startled me to where I wanted to cry. It still has an effect on me today. I remember seeing the heartbroken look on my brother’s face when I got startled from the loud clap of someone’s hands.
I will never be able to recall a single second of our car hitting the one on front of us, or the airbag hitting my face and then deflating, or the chemicals exploding into and burning my eye. The memories of screaming with my hands over my face wet with tears, the ambulance ride, stinging pain on my upper right cheek, and disgustingly pitiful looks, however, will haunt me forever.