Friday, April 25, 2008


I just received a phone call from my Twin in Chicago.


Whoa. Slow down. Who got killed? Are you OK?

He is OK. Physically.

The Twin was, as he is almost every evening, standing at the Cermak bus stop after work.
Unlike most days, today a runaway tractor trailer plowed into the station.
He felt the air move as the truck passed.
It was very close.

There was a deafening , exploding sound - louder than a hundred earthquakes- and suddenly bodies were flying through the air, people were screaming, blood was everywhere.
The Twin actually saw the truck coming in, but those who didn't thought it was a bomb or a derailed train.

After the shock, my brother and other bystanders tried to lift a piece of metal ( from his description, I think it may be the 'L' shaped beam directly in front of the truck's front tire) off of a pair of women who were pinned underneath. They were in a pool of spreading blood.
The women were not moving.

The rescue was not successful.

Two women died at the scene and nearly a dozen other persons are in critical care.

I'm not sure if the dead women were the ones he was trying to help or not; in any case it was a horrible scene and the Twin was very shaken, on the edge of make matters worse, someone stole the Twin's backpack, which he had dropped when he ran to help. It had his wallet, credit card, checkbook, cell phone...the works.

With any luck, the authorities picked it up while they were clearing the scene...maybe they thought it was a potential bomb and they took it somewhere and blew it up, it'll ruin your Blackberry but your ID will be safe.
I suck at comforting.

The Twin was still in a state of mild shock. He was afraid to watch the news...he didn't want to know how many people died. He started down the what if path:
-What if I hadn't stopped to tie my shoe?
-What if I hadn't seen the truck coming?

Don't think about that, I said.
Just don't take anything for granted, ever.
I don't.

There are degrees of near-death experiences. His was brief, unforeseeable and left him unharmed- dodging the proverbial bullet, as it were.

My own experience was a bit different. I didn't have a brush with Death, I had a long disagreement that went on for six days...I remember the doctor coming into my room and telling me that they had "lost me" a couple of times while I was on the operating table.

What operating table? I had surgery?

Yep. I went into alcoholic withdrawal while they were trying to repair my innards...I had a grande mal seizure while I had an endoscopic tube inside me. Everyone present was amazed that I survived. I used up four units of blood. This seemed like a pretty impressive statistic to the doc, he repeated it several times for effect.

Jesus. I'm glad I don't remember that. Doc, how long will I be in the hospital?

Not long, he said.

That's good news.

No, it's not. We expect you to die.

Die? When?

Today. Perhaps tomorrow.

That sucks. I don't feel like dying.

The doctors didn't believe me. Over and over again, I was asked the same questions in different forms...did I ever have suicidal thoughts? ...did I plan on drinking again?
I felt like screaming : of course I NEVER have any suicidal thoughts! I drank myself into a bloody pulp in a joyous, life-affirming manner!
I mean, nothing celebrates life like a 1.75 liter bottle of Bowman's Virginia Vodka... I sure could use a drink...but I didn't say that.

I lied and said : "No and no."

It's a good thing that I did.
I have since learned that if I had admitted to having "suicide ideation", I probably would have been placed into psychiatric care, which would have driven me insane...instead, I was left alone with Death, who can be a real asshole.

The smug, undying bastard was convinced that I was going to drink again.
"C'mon in, man", he said with a wink and a scythe, "the water's fine. One drink and you can swim here forever, you'll never feel any pain again."

"But", I protested, "that means I'll never feel anything good either."

"Dude", he said, using a condescending tone that only immortals can truly pull off, "your life sucks. You are a fat, used-up drunk with no job, no future and no friends. No one even knows that you are here...they won't miss you when you are gone. Loveless , hopeless, forgotten...that's you."

No. That's not me. Don't say that. No.

The Reaper grinned. "Why not? You say it every day. I'm just agreeing with you."

I had to admit that he was right.
I also had to admit that I was wrong.
Death was using my own words as a weapon against me.
That pissed me off.

It was then that I decided that I was never going to drink again.
I've been sober ever since.

Poor company, Death was, but I'm richer for having met him.

Sometimes persons, on hearing my story, will comment that I must possess remarkable strength.
Or courage.
Or willpower.
Or faith...or any number of other things that I don't have.

Those aren't the things that keep me sober.

The secret to my sobriety isn't a secret at all.
I don't want to die.

That's it.


In 1996 I wrote a comic book mini-series titled "Destiny Angel". This is the opening page from issue #1:

In which my protagonist is asked the question:

Eerie, eh?

I thought so.


yellowdog granny said...

my friend chuck that just passed away once told me that i would quit drinking when it became easier to quit than to have a drink..he was right..

yellowdog granny said...

i just read an article about the crash in awful...glad your twin is ok...

billy pilgrim said...

it may sound trite but, one day at a time.

there's a good chance that i'm just resting for another kick at the cat.

whimsical brainpan said...

I'm glad your twin is safe.

There are no words...

Sling said...

Holy crap!
Glad the bro is okay buddy.I've done the 'what if' wonderings on an occasion or two myself.
I quit drugs in much the same fashion that you quit drinking.
I just wanted to live.

citizen of the world said...

Oh, that is so horrible. Those poor women, and alos your brother for having to witness it. It's the kind of thing that scars you. I'm glad he was not physically hurt.

beth said...

I had a near death experience before, and I am ashamed of the circumstances.

I was in Kansas City on a business trip and I went out the Art Deco district to go to a museum and listen to a Sunday jazz band. Well, I got wasted and then I got lost in my rental car trying to find my way back to the hotel. I ended up wrecking car, although it was still drivable sort of. I have no idea how, when, or where it happened, but I drove to a 7/11 and called a cab. I left the car there to deal with in the morning and took a ride from this sleazy cab driver.

The cab driver did not drive me to my hotel. Inside, he drove to a vacant parking lot and started to make the moves on me. A sliver of fear ran up my back and realized that I was in danger. He obviously was going to rape me and even though I was still wasted, I was thinking fast how to get out of it. I told him my boyfriend was a biker in the Pagans and he would kill him and me if he ever found out. I just kept going on and on about it. I don’t how I did it, but I actually talked him out of it and got him to drive me to the hotel.

The next morning, the weird thing was, I was not “sure” if I was really still alive. It all seemed so surreal; I didn’t believe it happened until I saw how badly I wrecked the car. I called my best friend and said “I know this sounds crazy, but just talk to me, tell me a joke, just anything so I am sure I really alive and this isn’t still just part of a bad dream.”

After that experience, I realized that I had to slow down and start taking better care of myself. I have succeeded in some ways and continue to fail in other ways. But, now with a family, I realize even more so how important it is to live a more moderate, in control life.

Susannity said...

Aside from what I saw as a paramedic, I had a car roll over in front of me once. He almost sideswiped our car before he swerved and rolled over. And even though I had been a paramedic, seeing the accident in front of your eyes is very different than responding after the fact. I'm sorry your brother had to experience that.

So shitty some asshole had to take his backpack during the chaos. You can only hope karma hits them upside the head someday.

Allan said...

JS- Chuck was right. Drinking became hard work.

BP- I'd rather get hit by a truck than take a drink.


Sling- Yeah, it gets to the point of binary code...ones and zeros. Glad ya made it to base ten.

CW- It was the worst thing he's ever seen. I wish I could say that.

Beth- I wish I had a time machine. I'd travel back 20 years and show "young us" this blog. Our younger versions would probably dismiss the warning as a hallucination though...

Sus- I'm beginning to think that every post-conception moment is 'borrowed time'.

Auld Hat said...

Did you 'sense' that your twin was in danger? Or that he was going to call? I'm always curious about paranormal connections between people during high emotion events. But mostly I'm just glad that he's okay and you're still around to comfort him (however horribly). Also, NICE artwork! Quasi premonitionalike but nice all the same (:

billy pilgrim said...

oh yeah, i'd rather have sex with hillary clinton than get hit by a truck.

Allan said...

Hat- Not this time...I've had my share of 'psychic' weirdness though. One of my dad's friends was killed when I was a granma called and I said : "Forrest is dead" before she told me. I don't know how I knew...I'd blog about it but it would make me sound crazy.

BP- It'd be funny if she got impeached for fucking's moot anyway. There more horrible McCain looks, the more certain I am he'll win.

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McRaven said...

Busty Beauties hu? Anyhow, I'm a mental health worker in a small hospital I call a country club in the state of CT. I work with mostly alcoholics detox or heroine detox. I could tell you some stories...

There was this one guy, young 34, he had been a frequent flier but sobered up for 6 months to get his new liver. I kid you not he's been back twice since he got the new liver. I had to tell him this liver was not going to last years like his own liver. I had to tell him you know someone died in order for you to get this second chance at life. He swore at me "you fucking bitch" if I had a quarter for every time I've been called that at work...

I don't see many success stories. It was good to hear one here.

And my name is Nancy, and I'm not really fancy. There is a children's book out, there, 3 of them...Fancy Nancy :)

Allan said...

Raven- Even the spambots have a sense of irony these days...there's a little Fancy in all of us.

angel said...

wow... very spooky! i am so glad the twin is ok- thats one helluva thing to go through!
i for one am very glad you flipped the bird at the grim reaper!