By Luis Gael Jimenez
ETERNITY, California — There has existed one moment of perfect clarity in my life.
It didn’t last long. Maybe two or three seconds to the horrified bystanders around me. But to me, those two or three seconds lasted for an eternity.
You realize a lot in the vacuum of eternity.
You realize that no, you’re not that short. No, you’re not that smart. No, you’re damned credit score doesn’t matter. No, you’re not that lucky. And finally, yes, you’re going to slam into a car at 50 miles an hour.
22 years. At that point in time I’d only lived 22 years. 22 great years. 22 terrible years. 22 Catholic guilt riddled years.
Not a single God damned one of those years flashed before my eyes. Not a single memory played in my mind. No thoughts of mom, grandma, dad, brother, cousins, neighbors, friends. No faces. Not even the ones in my car. No final deals with God. There was nothing. All there was was silence.
The silence of metal slamming into metal. The silence of the horrified scream that Ashley let out next to me and the whimper of a tiny maltese poodle losing a fight she never signed up for.
I didn’t yell. I didn’t cry. I didn’t look away. God damnit I had done it. I had fucking killed myself. No shotgun suicide, no cirrhosis of the liver, no last meal, no tears, no dramatics. I was going to kill myself in a fucking Hyundai for Christ’s sake.
Then the explosion. The big bang that launched me from the Land Eternal back into whatever realm we live in now. One by one, each of my senses kicked back in.
The ringing in my ears was first. The sounds of the last few millennia all played themselves suddenly and loudly. Each one trying to catch me back up on the eternity that I had missed, screaming louder and louder in order to be heard above the others.
Next was the smell. It smelled like fire. Like something was burning and in close enough proximity to singe the hair in my nostrils. With the sound and the smell, it almost felt like someone had fired a musket in my backseat.
Then the vision. The vision of reality. A vision of life. No pearly gates. No fiery gates of hell. Just an airbag. I looked into the passenger seat. Ashley was there. She was breathing. I could see she was bleeding from somewhere but I was too disoriented to figure out where. And somewhere in the back of the car I could see a little ball of confused fur trying to figure out what the hell had just happened.
I remember mouthing words. I mean, I remember saying them but I don’t remember hearing them.
“Are you okay?” It’s a real fucking stupid question to ask but it has to be asked. Ashley was okay. Well, as okay as you can be after plowing into a stationary object at 50 miles an hour.
The blood was coming from her thigh. She had a massive bruise underneath her chin where the airbag had reminded her who was in charge.
I grabbed blindly into the backseat and checked on Chiquita. Listen I’m not a vet. Far from it even. But when I grabbed her and she didn’t immediately yelp or cry, I gave her the old okie dokie for the time being.
It was sometime around then that I realized I was also a corporeal being and not some eternal and ancient deity. I scanned my arms. They looked alien. Everything did. The scar on my forearm looked like it belong to someone else. The blood wasn’t mine. It couldn’t be mine, I was still alive. Was I in the wrong body?
Then the honking started. The car that was behind me politely let me know that I was now blocking his path on the freeway by laying on his horn for a good ten seconds. Or maybe my time shift had put me far back enough in time that he was trying to warn me that I was going to… No, he was an asshole. An asshole with terrible timing.
I grabbed Ashley’s hand. We were both trembling violently. I told her she was okay. I felt like a liar.
I remember laying my ringing head back down onto the headrest and closing my eyes. Part of me was hoping I would wake up in bed in the middle of a night terror. Part of me was wishing I would just die right there and let everyone else deal with the clusterfuck this was going to be. And part of me was just hoping somebody would plow into the asshole behind me and get him to lay off of his horn.
None of those things happened.
The honking continued, the car was still wrecked, my girlfriend was still bleeding and I was still concussed.
I didn’t find God. I didn’t figure out that I was living a lie and needed to pursue my actual dreams. I didn’t realize that I’d wasted my life. I didn’t learn anything. No profound take away to write about on Tumblr later that night.
I just felt like a dipshit.
I had an eternity to ponder. An eternity to ask myself what I could have done differently and instead I just sat there in a wrecked Hyundai pretending to be dead but somehow still alive. I didn’t thank God for saving my life but to be fair I didn’t thank Hyundai either.
To bring this pointless writing back to the present, there was a moment a couple of weeks ago, where I was onstage during Hobo Johnson’s performance at Concerts in the Park and I had the camera up to my eyes and three thousand people screaming the lyrics to “Dear Labels” in my ears. Suddenly and from seemingly nowhere, the memory of the accident crawled into my mind. A reminder that a year ago I was sitting in a wrecked car pretending to be dead. I put the camera down and just took in what was before me for a second. None of those people were there to see me, no one on stage gave a shit that I was there. But that’s the point: I was there. I was fucking there. I wasn’t in some graveyard on the bad side of town resting alongside my grandparents or my cousins, I wasn’t spread out on the American River. I was there… I was there.
Oh and I drive a Prius now so if I die in a car accident please tell someone I died doing something a lot cooler.