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 tears...to 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.
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.
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 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.
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:
I thought so.