It was both the longest and the shortest drive of my life. It felt like it took a lifetime to get to Tree, but then I was right there, skirting the cops and parking my car in front of the ambulance.
Oh, and the Jeep, on its side.
Parked, shut my car off, jogged up the hill.
Tree was standing on the sidewalk looking small and about to cry. As I got closer, I took stock of his body parts: Arms, two. Legs, both there. Face, not bleeding. I eased my arms around him, afraid to squeeze a broken rib or fractured arm I might have missed.
He was shaking, vibrating, and talking a mile a minute - to me, the cops, the owners of the fence he destroyed when he rolled the Jeep across their lawn.
He kept laughing, almost mechanically, about how he managed not to get any of his freshly-bought coffee on his ACUs - but there was blood on his pants, along the opening to his pocket. His fingers had been cut in the broken glass and were bandaged, but still bleeding a lot. "Can you get more bandaids?" I asked. He vaguely shook his head. He'd refused transport to the hospital and the EMTs had driven away almost as soon as I got there.
Standing a few yards away was a dazed looking man in a navy blue sweatshirt. "Is that the guy?" I whispered to Tree. He nodded. "So what the hell happened? Did he fall asleep or what?" Tree didn't know. I gently hugged him again and looked further up the hill at the man's car, which had come to rest, on all four wheels, in front of a mail box on the other side of the street. "Are they going to cite him?" Tree shrugged and shushed me.
The man walked over to us hesitantly and apologized (though Tree later told me he had already apologized about a hundred times). He told us a friend was coming to pick him up, but that Tree should call him if he needed anything. He gave us his business card. "And, uh, I really appreciate you serving our country." Then a truck drove up and he hopped in and was gone.
"So, it's pretty clear what happened," said one of the cops, walking over. "You can see where he crossed into you lane, and where you went up onto the sidewalk to avoid him. And we did cite him, just so you are aware." Tree nodded. I nodded. The cop continued, "I should have the accident report completed by this afternoon, tomorrow morning the latest, and you can go pick it up any time." His hand-held chirped, and he walked away.
The firefighters were standing in a little cluster near the Jeep, quietly talking and waiting for the tow trucks. The first one took the man's Cadillac, because it didn't need to to be flipped over. We all waited some more. The air still smelled like fog. The elderly couple with the ruined fence went back into their house.
Tree kept talking, crazy laughing, rubbing the lump on his head, flexing his cut fingers, checking the time on his cell phone. He was late for drill. "I think they'll understand," I said. I just wanted everyone to go away and Tree to stop talking and be still. He kept squirming out of my hugs but I persisted, pressed my cheek against his chest. My eyes finally filled with tears at the realization of what could have happened.
The second tow truck finally came and helped the firefighters flip the Jeep back onto its wheels. Coffee dripped out the broken driver's window. Tree picked up the severed sidemirror and handed it to me. "Souvenir," he said and went to dig his bags out of the back of the Jeep.
We thanked the firefighters, the cops, the tow truck guy, and got into my car. "I have to get to drill," he said. He also wanted a new coffee.
"it's just another thing for me
I just have to wander through this world
- Pete Yorn "Lose You" -