A Wakeup Call
Written by Jordan Cooley
CW : Don’t drink and drive; suicide allusion; car crash
I watched a woman on a motorcycle wreck into a pedi-cab on the South Congress bridge last week.
We were walking on the other side of the road when I saw the skid, the fall, the sparks. She sent both her body and the biker’s tumbling into the road. As we watched cars swerve around them, the seconds slowed.
I could hear Spencer* calling 911 as we ran across traffic. Alex* was the first to reach her, to help her to her feet. I picked up scattered belongings : a phone, a debit card, a speaker. The man on the bike had already moved his cab to the sidewalk.
We were all relieved that she had been wearing a helmet; relieved that the scrapes on her arms and legs were minor, only a bit of blood spread across the pavement; relieved that the man’s cab was his only injury.
When my eyes met the woman’s, I saw myself. Last summer, I fell asleep while driving home from a bar. In theory, after three beers, I should’ve been fine. In reality, though, I hadn’t been eating. I hadn’t slept well in days. Finding out your partner of over three years, with whom you lived, cheated on you does that to the body. Or at least, it did to mine.
We all could tell she was a bit drunk. She tried to say that she didn’t need 911, that home was right around the corner, that she could have sworn someone had slammed on their breaks which caused her to slam on hers which caused her to skid into him.
And all I could think of was: What are we to do with these brushes of tragedy? Of these wakeup calls that show us how far we are dipping?
The immediate feeling when I woke up to my wrecked car was disbelief. How could I, a daughter of a cop, a woman who grew up with alcoholics in the family, a niece to a woman who had been convicted and jailed for a DWI be here?
I remember frantically searching for my phone before anything else. I remember stepping out of the car, saying over and over again, “This didn’t happen.” I remember seeing my smashed front end and dropping to my knees, bawling.
I remember the homeless woman who sat next to me and said over and over again, “At least you’re alive.”
It wasn’t until the next morning that I had the realization that I couldn’t let someone, no matter what they did to me, affect me so badly that I fail myself. That I forget that I am worth food and love and kindness. That I am worth seeing another day, another blue sky, another dance, another failing. Whatever god there was that allowed me to fall far enough to see how broken I had become, was also the god that protected me enough to show me that not all was lost. That I still had time. Have time. That I am worth investing in myself. That this break up wasn’t going to be the end of me. My ex didn’t control that.
The crash made me realize that this is my life and the decisions I make will affect me and the people I love.
I wish I could have said this to the woman on the bridge: That it doesn’t matter the reasoning why you almost forever altered both your lives.
It matters that you’re both still alive.
So, what will we do with this chance? Do you see it? Do you see how lucky we are? That we walked away from these accidents, with barely an injury? That there are people and experiences in our lives worth living for?
Every day since my crash I have asked myself how I am making the most of what I am given. There are days that I am able to answer with pride and others where I feel so small, I can’t look in the mirror. I am still overcoming the shame from that summer, but I refuse to let it keep me from living.
Instead, I look at it as a catalyst for my most intense and rewarding growth; a reminder that I want to be alive, that I get another chance to make positive change in my world and hopefully, in others.
*names were changed
Jordan Cooley is a writer and self taught artist in Austin, TX. She graduated from Texas A&M with a degree in English and has worn many hats, including Slam Master and President of a poetry non-profit called Mic Check, financial analyst for JP Morgan, researcher and executive assistant for AmeriCatalyst and now bartender at Better Half Bar. Each day, she is feverishly working towards becoming a better ally, a more nuanced writer, and a woman who accepts the goofy slips and slides of life. Follow on Insta @jarcy_ and on Twitter @jrcooley_ to see what kind of falls she makes on the daily.