Imagine awaking suddenly. Imagine a northern view of a beautiful wooden church, fronted by a small paved road, speed limit 25 MPH in this quiet little backwater community. That was an odd dream. You are working on a book, and having lots of fun doing it, because you’ve finally broken through a writer’s block that has lasted a decade. Life is good.
It’s late afternoon, and you were napping, which is understandable because you’ve been writing all night on other projects, things that pay for this large room, the writer’s office in which you will live until the next book is finished. You get up, make the bed, vacuum, dust and starting hitting the keyboard.
Ten minutes go by. The cat is still asleep on the bed. Sound of tapping keys.
Now, imagine a 26-foot moving van coming from the north at high speed, veering on two wheels, and the thought balloon above your head reads: This vehicle could collide with the building in which you peacefully reside, and flatten you like a cockroach. All summed up in one word, the very same word found on every black box where the pilot or copilot sees what’s coming.
On June 22, a truck dropped in, uninvited. For the next three months, I was privileged to live like a refugee in my own American community, tenting for the first month, but the operative word is “lived.” Somehow I survived the event, by luck, grace, foresight, intuition, and one gazelle-like leap out of my comfortable writing chair toward the only corner of the room that was not turned into Beirut.
Oh, and the movies are all wrong about the sound it makes. If you watch a lot of adventure movies, you have perhaps seen the camera’s-eye view of a wall imploding and a vehicle coming straight at you, the viewer. Trust me on this: The reality is much more real. For one thing, you can leave a movie behind, get in your car, and go home and make love to your significant other. For another, you don’t even have to pick up the spilled popcorn in the theater. No no debris to clean up.
The recurring images of a windshield heading straight at me, standing in a whirlwind of pulverized glass, drywall pellets and dust, a 200-pound bookcase missing my head by inches, and two horrified faces apparently wondering why I was still alive — the rear wheels caught on the foundation, and the cab jammed up on the main gable beam, or I would have been jelly on the hood — my Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome has taken the form of a euphoria and gratitude for the gift of every single day, not to mention a hypergraphia — barely controllable compulsion to write — that dates from Ramming Day. Not too bad.
My cat survived unscathed, although the bed we were both napping on was run over and obliterated. Midst the tumult and impending images of my own death, the most vivid memory is of Nameless the Cat, levitating to an impossible height from a sound sleep, all his pink toes visible and his eyes as wide as a lemur’s. Not a scratch on him afterwards. The only injury of note was … the young laborer whom the driver had stowed in the back of the moving van, in contravention of the laws of the state of Oregon and whatever common sense God gave a sack of doorknobs. This young man had a tiny cut on the pinky of his left hand. Had the truck wrecked any other way, he would have been killed. So, whew.
At the moment, I do not require a lot of proof that God exists, the universe is generally benign, and guardian angels work overtime. Been there, got that.
Had this happened to anyone else, it might have been more than just a shrieking pain in the glutes, plus a chance to go after an insurance company for my villa in Capri. But for a chronicler of the human experience, or more simply put, this happy, blessed hack writer, it was … just sublime. At the moment, life is even better. Whoever made all this happen, thank you very much.
Photos by Roger Richardson