The Night I Danced with the Devil
Where I come from, people fear one thing and one thing only; God.
When I was 22-years old, I knew everything about nothin’ and working a construction job I loved, but for the wrong reason; it wasn’t the work I loved, it was the money – just under two grand a week. One night my job foreman, Lenzie, asked if I could stay late and load a semi with materials needed at a job site at five in the morning the next day. Being the good employee I was, and seeing the opportunity to get paid double my hourly wage, I took the challenge and told my boss to split, I’d get it done. I drove the old yellow Mitsubishi fork truck for close to three hours, coming close to never slowing down. I was on a mission and I wanted the job done right.
I picked and placed the 25 foot long 4X4 planks, the 10 bales of #8 rebarb and a countless, seemingly endless number of concrete forms onto the semi’s flat bed trailer. After securing the load with several nylon straps and steel chains, I left soon after. Around the same time I was gazing at the marvelous job I had just completed, knowing it would have taken any of the other guys who worked in the yard with me another three hours to compete, in a small town ten miles up the road, a sad excuse for a man had just entered another bar.
The bartender immediately noticed the guy wearing a dirty pair of Levi’s and torn up t-shirt was already over-served. When he yelled his order down the bar to her she filled his glass with Coke. Because he was so jacked, he didn’t know the difference.
After a while of drinking the booze-free Coke’s, the rotten drunk began to yell at the bartender for not serving him any alcohol. And as he did, the four guys sitting in the bar became fed up with his drunk cohorts and escorted him through the door. After finding the way to his pick-up truck and guessing which key went to the ignition, he started it up and drove into the five other cars parked in the lot before getting on Interstate 55. About the time he got on to I-55, heading North, I was about 10 miles from my exit. According to police reports, he flew up the interstate at speeds close to those of NASCAR drivers at Bristol Motor Speedway, 100-miles an hour. But as he drove like a bandit, he did it without use of headlights.
He struck my GMC Z-71 in the left rear corner and sent my Black Beauty sideways into the drainage ditch separating the highway and the frontage road. After he hit me, he veered left through the median and into oncoming traffic. Starting the mortality.
The first car he hit head on was driven by a man taking his son home. The father was killed instantly and the son was severely injured. The driver of the second car he hit in oncoming traffic was driven by a man who was working overtime. He too, was killed at the scene. After striking a third car while driving the wrong way, the drunk finally put his onslaught of destruction to rest.
According to the semi driver following behind me on I-55, when my truck reached the top of the drainage ditch, it went airborne, flew over the frontage road completely and bounced, twisted, broke and bent into a giant lump of black steel in the field it landed in. He said he stopped his rig as fast as he could to get to me, to see if he could help. He also said as he approached, he began to make assumptions I wouldn’t need any help because I would be dead. But as he raced closer my beautiful black clump of tangled steel, he noticed me pulling myself out through the back window before falling into the tall wheat grass lining the two roads.
When I awoke from my comma 13-days later, and my parents told me what had happened, I didn’t believe them. I was certain I had crashed my plane again. Funny thing about this was I didn’t have a plane. I hadn’t even been on a plane at the time. And still, for another four months, I was certain I had crashed my plane.
After spending close to six months at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and working diligently with the countless number of therapists I worked with, they released me back to the world. And now, fourteen years later, I still think about the event most every night.
I wonder if it happened because I was being greedy and wanted to earn double time pay? I wonder if it happened as a result of me getting a DUI three months prior? I wonder if the reason has even presented itself to me yet?
People often ask if I remember the accident. And every time, I lie to them and say I don’t. It’s kind of hard not to remember a night like this, especially when I’m sleeping or while in the shower. I’m reminded everyday when I find myself missing the life I lived when I was 22. And the money I was making when I was 22. And the way I handled everything I could on my own when I was 22. I watch the accident close to every night in my dreams. I can see the drunk coming and I can see him hit my truck bed. I see the truck flipping in the field and finally coming to rest against a tree, that oddly enough, has two wooden crosses pounded into the ground at its base.
I’m reminded every shower I take by any of the scars on my body.
I have a nine inch scar on my right pelvis where they connected titanium plates and pins to my hip to hold it together. And 62 little circle scars from the staples used to keep the incision closed after surgery. I’ve a penny sized scar next to my “twins” where the doctors inserted a Greenfield Vena Cava filter to stop blood clots from reaching my heart. I now have two belly buttons, the one I was born with and the one from the feeding tube put to use while I was sleeping for all those days. I’ve a six inch scar, three inches below my original belly button from where they operated to fix my ripped uretha. There is a scar the size of a quarter in the middle of my throat from the tube used to help me breathe while my lung was collapsed which is surrounded by four little dot scars from the attachment devise for the tube so not to lose it in the middle of the night. Then there are the two on my hips, one on the left and one on the right, from the eight inch steel rods drilled into the bone and connected to each other by another steel rod so my hips would stay even with each other at all times. And finally, there is the smooth, tan colored circle on the back of my head which was used for insertion of a tube to drain fluids and blood from my head so not to cause remarkable brain damage, or permanent memory loss. Though I have never seen it, I still know it’s there.
The guy who caused this catastrophe of an auto accident fractured his femur. I guess when you’re as drunk as he was – he had a blood alcohol level of .341, over four times the legal limit in Illinois – you get super powers and can avoid pain and death. But he did get sentenced to prison for a fourteen year stint. And because he had no drivers license, or insurance, and had been arrested five times for driving drunk prior to this night, he was charged with murder, not vehicular manslaughter. Now, if I’m doing the math correctly, he’s getting out of the pen soon. I honesty hope I did it right because I can’t wait for the day he gets out. Because on this day, I’ll be there to introduce myself to him as the guy he almost killed. But more importantly, I’ll be there to get revenge by finally venting my unrestful anger for the people who lost their lives, the people who were injured and the families of all involved. I can’t wait to see the look on his face.
And shepherds we shall be, for thee, my Lord, for thee. Power hath descended forth from Thy hand, our feet may swiftly carry out Thy commands. So we shall flow a river forth, to Thee, and teeming with souls, shall it ever be. In Nomeni Patri, Et Fili, Spiritus Sancti.
Now, years later, I joke with friends about the night of the accident; the night I technically died twice and was zapped back to life with a defibrillator each time. The night my life, my world, was so drastically altered to the mess it is today. The night lives and dreams were lost. The night I danced with the devil.
People often ask me if I remember my accident; what do you think?
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