Yesterday Steele and I went on a date. We were going to a pizza place that's a potential wedding caterer. I put on the new Daughter album. We had gone over the river, we were merging back onto I-5, when we hit traffic. Dead stop. I was in a good mood, the traffic couldn't really affect it. I said all it meant was that we were in a car together, listening to music. I said it sounded like our entire relationship.
We decided it must have been an accident, it was Sunday and we weren't moving at all. then the sirens came, and the ambulance, and we pulled over as best we could, all the cars parting so there was a blank avenue of space. I looked back, the girl in the car behind us was smoking and blowing the smoke out her window. More sirens came, and more cop cars. We said it must have been bad. We speculated.
Finally, we started to move, the empty aisle in the highway closed up with moving cars again. We passed empty lanes on the left, a cop car, another cop car, a cop trying to light his flares. Then there were several cars parked, but no damage. We were looking for damage. Then, there in the road was a body bag. A white body bag zipped up with a body inside of it. Heart-stopping.
We were grasping to understand. Where was the damage? At the front, leading the pack, there was a car with a head shaped hole in the windshield. There were groupings of people talking, not talking, with their hands moving and their hands still. the highway was clear in front of us. The dark night, an easy path. I felt like crying. we sped away, still trying to put it together. Steele said it looked like someone had tried to cross the highway. That they were there in the road and were hit. It was the only thing that made sense, unless we had missed something.
We were far away now, back in our plan for the night. Trying to google for information, somehow tied to an event that didn't concern us at all. We waited an hour for two seats at the bar of the pizza place. Finally, Steele found a short post online—Pedestrian killed trying to cross I-5. A man in his 50s. There was the damage. The damage was an unnamed man in his 50s. The damage was zipped up in a body bag.
It didn't concern us, but it did. We were just a tiny part in this thing that had happened. And it wouldn't splinter our lives like the man in the road or the person driving the car. (What could they do, nothing. Nothing.)
All we were meant to do was drive back on the night highways and speculate. All we were meant to do was say how strange it was, that this man could have no idea two random people would be talking about him, about his death. But still, can the image of a body bag on the highway ever leave you?
Even you, the tiniest bit of it all, the spectator, the outsiders, speeding away in your borrowed safety.
It's always there, heart-stopping.