There's a small piece of glass embedded in my right arm, just above the joint of my elbow. It's a shard of car window, pushed into my skin when our Pathfinder was struck on the driver's side, a compact sedan hitting with such force that the SUV flipped completely over and landed back on its wheels. My half-open window shattered when the passenger door tipped into the street, bits of glass and Madison Avenue burying themselves in the arm that was still braced against the window frame when the horizon went vertical.
My daughter, nearly three years old then, was also in the car, strapped into the middle of the backseat. I didn't hear her make a noise when we went over, but as soon as the car stopped moving, she began shrieking to get out. I skittered over the center console to get to her. I don't remember opening the door, but somehow we got out. I can still feel the late afternoon August sun in my eyes as I stood holding her on the sidewalk, looking her over for injuries, trying to determine whose blood was whose. I clutched her to me and the full fear hit me at once. I peed right out the leg of my shorts. I barely noticed and didn't care.
The day leading up until the accident had been eventful, a mix of highs and lows. We had been to the lake, kayaking and swimming. Even though the child's energy and attitude were flagging, we decided to end the day with a trip to Baskin-Robbins. We were a block out of the parking lot when the woman in the white Taurus ran the red light. By the time I registered the sound of her brakes squealing, the impact had already occurred.
An ambulance came and the EMTs tracked the baby and me down in the Zinnie's bathroom, where we were trying to use duct tape to remove glass from our skin and clothes. They insisted on taking us to the emergency room, because they simply couldn't believe that anyone could survive that type of crash without a major injury. But after four hours sharing a bed in a very dark, curtained-off exam room in the corner of Methodist Central, we were checked out and cleared to go. When I asked about the chunk of glass they hadn't been able to irrigate from my arm, the nurse said, "Don't worry, it'll work itself out in time."
When I think of the day leading up to the accident, even the good moments are tainted by the ending. Every second led directly to that instant of disaster.
Nearly three years later, the glass is still there. I don't feel it all the time, but sometimes it aches out of nowhere, and it stings like a fresh wound if I bump it against something. Maybe it will still find its way out of me, I don't know. Maybe one day my skin will thin and soften and it will escape. Or maybe, as some morbidly suggested, it will burrow until it finds a vein and enters my bloodstream, threatening to block my heart completely. But most likely, it will stay where it is, the edges smoothing over time, less painful through the years but still reminding me of the collision, always warning me to be watchful.
When I see the scar or touch the bump beneath it, my stomach does a slight flip, a partial re-enactment. I feel like I'm right back in that out-of-control car, waiting for the spinning to stop so I can get my child to safety.