I have no memory of the most profound moment of my life.
It was September 20, 1997. I had worked a full day selling cologne at the department store called Filene’s. After work, I met up with my best friend and roommate for a movie. Titanic was the number one movie at the box office, but we were there for L.A. Confidential, a more bro-friendly experience. The movie was sold out, so we went to Wal-Mart to look for Star Wars action figures instead.
Gimme a break. We were twenty-five.
Our hunt was unsuccessful, so we drove across the street to McDonald’s for a late bite. We never made it.
A driver of an SUV ran a red light and t-boned our tiny Hyundai. He was supposedly searching for the song My Heart Will Go On (from Titanic) on the radio and didn’t see the stop signal, which is a much better excuse for a jury than “I was on the phone.”
Jump ahead almost twenty-five years. Spoiler alert—I lived. The three-ton vehicle, traveling at 40 miles an hour almost killed me. The road to recovery was a complicated and rocky one, and I have no memory of anything from that day, while my other memories are otherwise intact. Today, I’m watching Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time, a documentary of my favorite author. Vonnegut was a prisoner of war in World War II and survived the complete destruction of the city of Dresden, bombed by Allied forces. In the documentary, one of Vonnegut’s daughters said that he didn’t show his feelings about being the only survivor of such a horrific attack but he had to have been deeply affected by it. Of course, he felt it. Slaughterhouse-Five was his most popular book and only came about when he delved into his thoughts and feelings of that monumental event. Reflections that he worked for years to get just right on the paper.
While our experiences are different, I have worked hard to avoid tackling my own “Dresden Book” as Vonnegut had described Slaughterhouse-Five before he wrote it. There is therapy in exploring trauma, and writing is an indirect connection to others who are suffering.
I lost a lot that day. Friends. Family. Teeth. An eye.
But I gained something, too. Perspective.
So it goes.