i didn’t see the car.
no, that’s not true. i guess i saw the car, but you were asleep in the passenger seat so i saw you instead, and then i saw the car again and the red light but by that time we’d already crashed.
you sat up, groggy, rubbing your knees. “are you okay? are you hurt?” i asked you.
“what happened?” you mumbled.
“i hit someone. where’s your insurance?”
you fished around in the glove compartment for your insurance card. i grabbed my wallet and got out of the car. the guy i’d hit was examining the rear bumper of his hatchback. “oh, shit, my paint job,” he said. “my paint job.”
i looked at his paint job, yellow with purple flames. “i’m sorry,” i said. “i’m so sorry. are you okay?”
“yeah,” he said. “are you?”
“yes. listen, can we do this quickly?” i said. the people driving by in the other lane were slowing down to stare. “i’d like it if we could just exchange information and be on our way.”
“i’d love to,” he said, “but my car’s not going anywhere.”
i looked at his car. it was crushed in the back where i’d hit it, and crushed in the front where he’d hit the green truck in front of him. i hadn’t noticed the green truck before. i looked at your car–at the bent hood, at the fluid dripping onto the street from underneath, at the driver’s side door still hanging open. none of us were going anywhere.
“have you been drinking?” he asked me.
i looked away. “a little,” i whispered.
we were blocking a busy intersection at two a.m., so it wasn’t long before the police showed up. the first officer on the scene gave me a field sobriety test in the parking lot of the convenience store on the corner. i walked an imaginary tightrope, stood on one leg, followed the officer’s fat finger with my eyes. then another officer gave me the same tests, this time in front of the squad car video camera. i could see the remote microphone pinned to the lapel of his uniform. “does wind factor into this?” i asked, as a strong gust nearly knocked me off my one foot.
he didn’t answer. i felt, briefly, like a flamingo.
when the field sobriety tests were finished, the officer looked at me and said, “i have a strong suspicion that you were driving under the influence of alcohol, so i’m placing you under arrest. please put your hands behind your back.” i did. the handcuffs felt and sounded the way i’d always imagined they would–a few sharp clicks, the metal digging into my skin.
my arresting officer left me alone in the back of the squad car for a long time. i watched the yellow hatchback, the green truck, and your car get towed away from the scene. my purse is in there, i thought. i watched the cars on the street, still slowing down to stare at me. i watched the drivers of the cars i’d hit give their statements. they pointed at me, then at the cars, then at you. by this time you were out of the car and on the sidewalk, standing on one leg while a police officer looked at his watch.
why are they making him take the sobriety test? i wondered. he wasn’t driving, i was. but they handcuffed you anyway, and put you in the back of another squad car, right next to mine. you stared at me, your forehead pressed against the window, your expression unreadable.