Driving home last week I was struck by how disgustingly lucky I am. I was thinking of all the many things I have to be grateful for. To top it all off, the weather was gorgeous, the kids were behaving and I was on Top of Things.
Everything was perfect.
That's when I heard it.
Someone's been in an accident!
I was glad it wasn't me. Until I noticed my car tilting, ever so slightly, to the right. That's when the seconds turned to minutes. But what happened didn't register until I saw the light reflected in the shards of glass raining around my car like bubbles. I felt like I was drowning.
Gratitude, my ass.
I looked behind me and saw a silver car in the parking lane, its door flapping back and forth into the street, and the driver jumping up and down in her seat, her face frozen in terror.
I saw my boys, strapped in their car seats, searching my face for answers. Thankfully, they were fine.
I pulled over, got out of the car, opened the back door to get a better look at the boys. I didn't notice how the door had buckled into itself, the gash. People ran over, offering their cell phones, offering to hold my babies.
I was in shock.
They're fine. Thank you.
The other driver rushed over.
"Are you OK?" Her eyes grew huge. "OHMYGOD YOU HAVE CHILDREN IN THE CAR! OHMYGOD YOUR TIRE!"
That's when I noticed the damage. That's when I saw the huge dent over my right front tire. That's when I saw that the wheel had a 4-inch gash on it's side. That's when I saw the crushed metal, the peeling paint - our brand-new family car's side crumpled like a piece of paper.
"Yes, yes, I'm fine. Move your car to the parking lot, get yourself out of traffic."
I did that.
She went back to her car. A man in a business suit came over, cell phone in hand and called the police. He offered to change my tire, but I refused. A limo driver on break brought me water bottles and sat with me to keep me company until my husband could get there. A nanny out with her charges offered to play with my son.
Thank you. Thank you.
I asked the limo driver if he saw anything. I still didn't know what had happened.
"I heard the accident, but I didn't see it. But she definitely moved her car closer while you were distracted to make it look like she was further into the parking lane.
Police lights, a few questions. My husbands arrives. I try to cry, but no tears come out.
I don't know. I don't know.
We eventually figure it out. She opened her car door into the side of my car. My front bumper is dent-free. She wasn't looking, was distracted, parked too far from the curb, and opened her car door into a car.
Into our car.
Had she opened her door a second before she did, I might have seen her and been able to stop. But she opened the door as I was driving past her, after she was in my line of sight.
There was nothing I could have done to avoid it.
It's not your fault, my husband said. It's not your fault, said the insurance company. I try to tell myself, It's not your fault.
Still, my head is filled with doubt. What if I had taken another route? What if I had a left a few minutes later?