The first sensation is the odor--sweet and metallic simultaneously, a little oily and smoky besides. The second is the question of blood. Is it going out of me? Is my face bloody? Can I see? Did I lick the steering wheel? These questions continue in a barrage about an hour and a half after the fact, becoming less relevant as the day proceeds. Is the gurney easy to move? What will you do if I wet myself?
Smoke rises in front of me while all around me papers lay. Funny, I think, I don't recall having such a messy front seat. Cracked glass is suddenly no surprise but a feature of a scenery coming to life. A plush Batman dangles from one toe from the overhead mirror, otherwise unscathed. There are people I don't know knocking at my window. Are they angry?
"Can you move?" they probably say.
"I need to stretch my legs," I try to say, except I can't breathe. I'm pushing out of the box, and I'm outside, clutching my back. I'm walking circles in the snow. I could run away, I think. This could be a hit and run. Except that's not how it works, and I highly doubt I can run. The morning air is refreshing as breath returns to my lungs. I could lie down in the snow. It would feel good to lie in the snow.
Revelations slide into my vision like Tetris pieces that have no slot to fill. It's a city bus. I've hit it. The front part of my car is splayed all over the concrete and asphalt, oil leaking all over the ground. I look, but I don't see. Is the bus damaged? It is hard to look away from my car at the bus. My wife will be so angry. She will never forgive me. Did the airbags deploy? Yes, and I still don't know what that feels like.
The bus driver invites me onto the bus to sit for awhile. I start thinking that everyone in the world is nice--this thought continues for at least a day and a half. The two people waiting on the bus are just trying to get to their jobs. One of them was even taking care of me. I apologize profusely for holding them up. I return to my car to retrieve my glasses. I can't open the door and somehow cut my finger trying. How did I get out? When I manage to pry it open, my glasses are fine. Not broken, just tossed aside a bit.
The firemen come. One of them has a long, lined face, with pockets of routine shoved in between the lines. The other one has big round brown eyes and a sympathetic look. I assure them that my mental faculties are fine, but my back hurts, my eye is whapped, and my legs--I gesture pulling up my pants--are scuffed.
"Abrasions," the older firefighter says. "Do you need to go to an emergency room?"
I hesitate, and then I say yes.
I was talking to my speech and debate team, a high school group of about three people, on November 15th, about how performing against other people is one of the surest tools to verify that other people exist. As much as one might expect to grow, that one must also anticipate that other competitors will do the same. Solipsism is the technical term for the sentiment that, in growing, the world will support you as if it was designed for that particular purpose. All entities are structured to give validity to one's own thoughts and progress. The self is the only thing guaranteed to exist. All other beings are little more than automatons.
The opposite of the Copernican Principle is this belief and more. If you are a stationary body around which all other bodies rotate, then you can reasonably assume that nothing will ever interfere with your flow.
On November 17th, 2014, I woke up to head to work. I neglected to take the time to either let my ignition run or manually scrape the frost off of my windshield. It was minimal, and the heater was usually effective at clearing away frost before getting more than a couple of blocks from my house.
The heater did not work quickly enough. At 7:00 AM, the road towards my work curved almost direct towards the East, with the sun glaring down the road at my car. I was instantly blinded. It wasn't more than five seconds before I hit the city bus in the far right lane, stopped after picking up people. I may as well have driven into a brick wall at 35 to 40 miles per hour.
I survived with a fractured vertebrae and a few lesser scrapes and scuffs. I will be wearing a back brace for a month or more. I can move, walk, and drive, which is more than I can say for my mangled vehicle.
We are in orbit. We sometimes pass each other. We often think we know our own cosmology, but the revolutions we make are minutely different every time. We are not immune to meteors. There may come a day when a star, travelling near the speed of light, whooshes faster than our observatories can observe and obliterates us in one seething hot instant. For now, the fear of such a day has passed.
I am not a lonely little star or planet whimsically turning galaxies around my fingertips without a thought or concern, but I have friends and family sharing my orbit or near enough to me to bring me life-giving warmth, making this chunk of a man sometimes worth inhabiting.
One day, when this all comes to an end, it will be a pleasure to be stardust alongside you.