My car wrapped around the light pole like they were in a tight embrace. The symmetry was something stunning. Dead center, I’d caught that pole. My engine block went all the way around and would not let go.
My head hung in the windshield. They are designed to be shatterproof nowadays. An incredible force is needed to break one of those to pieces. Sure, it will fracture and crack but the film that they put over it keeps the shards from falling apart. The impact of my car into the pole at 60 kilometers per hour wasn’t enough to break it. It fractured, but the film that coated it held all the tiny pieces of glass right where they were. What really punctured the film was my forehead.
The forehead is the hardest part of the human body. A perfect arc of dense bone designed specifically to absorb impact and disperse the force. Mother Nature’s perfect design was the only reason that my forehead was able to puncture through the windshield, leaving my head hanging out like a red pimple.
Windshields weren’t always shatterproof. My sister got into an accident when she was younger. It was her first car, a blue jalopy as old as she was that only had six characters on the number plate. She hit a turn just a little too hard and went flying. The car tumbled and the windshield shattered on the first roll. She wasn’t wearing a seat-belt and was thrown clear through the open space where the windshield used to be. The car was totaled, but she walked away from it with just a few bruises. Maybe I would have survived the way that she did if my windshield wasn’t shatterproof. I’d have been thrown clear through and landed in the soft grass on the other side, thanking my good lord for having mercy on drunk drivers. But I had no such luck. I was dead. Definitely dead, with my blood pooling on the car’s matts and turning them red.
I guess I should count myself lucky because I didn’t feel any of it. One second I was accelerating over bumps, trying hard to see through my drunken blur, and then I was standing outside, watching my car crash into the pole in slow motion. Watching my body fly into the windshield. This is one of the Grim Reaper’s cruelest tricks: giving you the psychological trauma of watching yourself die but sparing you the pain of experiencing it first-hand.
The light-pole seamed undamaged, whatever design they were using to make those concrete poles quite clearly an intelligent investment. The only sign of damage was that the light at the top flickered on and off. I stood there under the flickering yellow light, staring at my own corpse when I heard the rumble of a car coming my way. It slowed down as it approached my wreck, just enough to get a glimpse and decide that there was nobody to save, then took off again.
A man on a bike came next. He slowed on his approach, put his black mamba down and rushed to the wreckage. He looked inside the cabin, saw half of my face sticking through the windshield and turned to throw up in the gutter. He took out his cell-phone, dialed a number and said something into it before pocketing it again, saying a quick prayer by the driver’s door then taking off on his bike.
Sometime later, it could have been an hour, maybe more, a tow truck arrived with a hearse. No ambulance. Whatever the bike guy had said into the phone, he must have made it clear that no trips to the hospital were needed. Just one to the morgue and a separate one to the scrap yard. I couldn’t blame him. It was a fair assessment.
The guy in the tow truck had clearly dealt with such situations before. He circled the scene twice on foot to take it in, calm as you like, as if he was assessing a car that he was about to buy. He stopped by the pole and scratched his chin, then rubbed his hands together and went to the back of his truck. He pulled out a large device, long and thick with an orange handle, and crammed it at the edges of my front bumper that were on either side of the pole and started to pump. The engine block whined and creaked as it was separated from the pole. When the mechanic was sure that he’d gotten enough space, he hooked up his winch to the car and peeled it off.
With the car pulled away the mechanic went back to his truck and came back with another tool, the Jaws of Life. He held it with such love, I could tell that it was his favorite tool. He used it to pull the door open and stepped back to let the guys from the morgue take over. They pulled my face out of the windscreen with a little more force than I would have liked and put me on a tray in their van. They were gone before the sun rose, leaving me under the light of the blinking pole.
KPLC came by next in their white van with their yellow and blue logo blazed on to check the integrity of their pole. The pole itself was solid, no structural damage at all but somebody needed to go up and check that flickering bulb. One of them suited up in blue overalls, a young looking fellow bouncing on his heels. He went up the pole with ropes and pulleys and changed the bulb. He was on his way down when one of the fixtures on the pulley came loose. The rope went slack and the young guy fell to the ground, his head bursting on the curb like a watermelon under a hammer. His ghost appeared right next to me seconds before his landing. For the first time since my crash, somebody noticed me. The ghost of the young man looked at me, wondering why he hadn’t noticed me standing there before. I looked at him and shrugged.
“You’re dead,” I wanted to say to him. “Ghosts recognize ghosts.” But I blinked and he disappeared. Gone to wherever ghosts go to. I wondered when I would go there too then shrugged. Eventually, I guess.
The rest of the day passed in a haze. People walked by. They probably didn’t realize why, but most of them crossed to the other side of the road right before they reached my pole. Some innate sense telling them to avoid the bad energy in that spot. One woman braved it and walked right past me. She rubbed her arms as she did, feeling a sudden gust of cold.
Night-time came and the street-lights came on again. Most of them anyway. The one above me, the one that I’d wrapped my sedan around, was still blinking, even though they’d changed the bulb and checked the connections. I could see motorists turn their heads to check it out, wondering what it was about that blinking yellow light that made them feel so uneasy, unaware the ghost who stood beneath it. The ghost of their fallen neighbor.