By A.J. Llewellyn
One of my neighbors was in a very bad car accident on Sunday. She and another neighbor were driving down the street when they saw – and could do nothing about – a young girl on the other side of the road, barreling out of her driveway, cell phone illegally plastered to her ear, music blaring, smashing into a car passing the opposite way. The driver of the second vehicle was speeding. He was driving so fast his vehicle spun around three times and swerved across three lanes of traffic hitting my neighbors in their vehicle. It was a bad crash and all three cars were totaled. The only person really injured was my neighbor whose legs blew up like balloons.
The girl has marginal insurance, the man who actually hit them was an unlicensed, undocumented illegal immigrant who spoke no English, but since the girl was at fault, her insurance is responsible. Try telling that to the company involved. They’ve given my neighbor the proverbial runaround and yesterday, I noticed her hobbling out of her front door to bring me and a couple of other neighbors her first batch of grapefruits from the tree outside her townhouse.
I was appalled to see her like this. She was almost in tears telling me that she is in severe pain but could not get to her appointment at St. John’s Hospital and her ride had just canceled. I immediately offered to take her. She kept saying, ”You’re busy. You’re always working.”
Yeah, but a couple of years ago I was hit under similar circumstances. I will never forget the feeling of helplessness, the disorientation, the pain of injuring my arm but worst of all, my poor dog being badly injured. I was lucky. I really was, and I know it, because a young woman in another vehicle also hit by the same lunatic was killed.
In the initial confusion, I had no idea she was dead. I still see it in my mind, that moment when I was aware of her lying in the middle of the road, her USC scarf flapping in the wind. There is still a shrine to her on the corner where the accident occurred and sometimes I visit it when I am walking my dog, just to remind myself my problems really, are not that huge.
I sometimes take her flowers and find others have been there too. One of the boys who was in the car with her that day recently left her a note: “You took the sunshine with you.” I’ve talked to him, neither of us able to this day to make sense of why we lived and she didn’t. My car was completely crushed on the right side, the side my dog was sitting in. That she survived it remains my greatest gift.
The people who own the shop at the corner have been very patient with us, the living. They leave the shrine there. The notes, the flowers. They’ve seen tons of accidents there but they too, remain affected by this one. They told me recently that great flocks of birds come to that corner, as if keeping vigil.
So you see, offering a ride to my neighbor seemed like no big deal to me. She was so worried about keeping me waiting as she waited inside the hospital for attention. I took my work with me, enjoyed the sun, sent my boyfriend a text message and even napped a little.
My neighbor is a sweet old thing and I do enjoy her. Sometimes she picks inopportune moments to engage me in long conversations, especially when I am in a hurry, but when I think she might be dead, I will be sure to make extra time for her in future. Why is it that we’ve become so used to rude and atrocious behavior that somebody extending the hand of friendship seems like a gift to good to be true?
She offered me cash, she offered me cookies. She offered to walk my dog. No, no, no. I wasn’t doing it to get anything back. I hope if I’m ever in her situation, somebody offers help to me. I thought about this a lot last night when she called me in tears – twice - thanking me for not being mean to her when her appointment took longer than she expected.
I don’t know what kind of friends she is used to dealing with, but this made me so sad. I thought about the young girl killed in the accident I was in. I’ve heard nothing but good things about her. She was a med student destined for big and beautiful things. Yes, her death haunts me still. Maybe it’s my upbringing…yeah, I think it is. But I will always help when I can, if I can, wherever I can, because that’s what neighbors do. And because there but for the grace of God go I.