It wasn’t exactly like in the movies. I didn’t see my life flash before my eyes, and I didn’t have time to think about what it all meant. I was standing, and then I wasn’t. I wasn’t bleeding, and then I was.
There were no deep thoughts or bright lights or a chorus of hallelujahs. There was just me, and the royal blue grill of a semi-truck, and the asphalt, and approximately every taxi driver in the city, yelling and screaming and jumping out of their cabs. Being hit by a truck was actually a lot less complicated than I thought it would be.
I was crossing the street to get to my apartment on my way home from a friend’s comedy show when it happened. I had the right of way. The driver ran a red light. I saw him coming before it was too late to get out of the way, and he hit me while I was running, leaving a deep gash and a dark purple bruise on my right shoulder.
I turned my body at an angle at the last possible second, and felt about 23,000 pounds smash into me at 25 miles an hour. My body was flung out of the way of the wheels, and I landed on my back, hard. My shoes popped off like a cartoon character.
I jumped up immediately, because my very first thought was, “Cool, I’m not dead!” I thought that the faster I got up, the more proof it would be that I was totally fine. Almost instantly, everybody within a four-block radius reassured me that I wasn’t.
“Did you have that bruise before?” one of them asked me, poking at my back.
“What bruise?” I said, dumbly. I couldn’t really feel it. Just a dull, stupid ache, and a few different trickles of blood sprouting from my elbow, knee, feet, wrist, and shoulder.
My friend Dominic jumped out of the cab we had just been sharing before I got out to head home.
“Are you okay?!” he shouted, running towards me while I clumsily tried to find my shoes.
“Oh yeah, totally. I’m totally fine,” I said, embarrassed. “That was crazy.”
The truck driver got out and made his way over, fuming.
“Are you drunk, lady? You fucking bitch. You ran right in front of me.”
“She had the right of way, man,” Dominic argued. A few bodies stepped in, half on the driver’s side, half on mine. It was like the Jets vs. the Sharks, only nobody was dancing. Except for me. I really had to pee.
“No way,” said the guy who worked behind the counter at the bodega across the street. “She’s a drunk. I saw her staggering and stumbling all the way down the block.”
“I’m not drunk,” I countered, pathetically, slowing down my jig. “But I really want to go home.”
I had big plans to watch Netflix and eat a bag of Xtra Cheddar Goldfish as soon as I got upstairs, and as far as I was concerned, nothing would stop me from making that happen.
I asked the truck driver for his insurance card, but he screamed obscenities at me one more time and disappeared. Dominic tried to take a photo of his license plate on his cellphone as he drove away, but it was blurry.
“What do we do now?” Dom was still shouting.
“I dunno. Go upstairs?”
As soon as I turned my back to put my key in the lock on my downstairs door, I heard Dominic gag.
“Jesus, Whitney, that’s really bad.”
“No, I’m serious, I’m calling the police, you need to file a report and get to the hospital.”
The thought hadn’t occurred to me.
“Hospital?” I asked.
“You’re bleeding pretty bad,” he said. I believed him, because his face was all squished up like my right shoulder was the grossest thing he’d ever seen.
“Okay,” I said. “We can walk from here.”
Dominic laughed. “Are you fucking crazy? We’re taking a car. Come on.”
He pulled me into one of the 40 yellow taxis that were still huddled around the scene of the accident and told the driver to gun it to the nearest hospital. I was in a daze, checking out my elbow and examining my feet. I kept laughing for no reason, and Dom kept repeating, “This is really bad, this is really bad, oh, gross, this is so bad.”
At Bellevue Hospital, a nurse put me in a wheelchair and wheeled me down to pediatrics, where Dominic yelled at the lady at the intake desk for trying to make me fill out paperwork with my busted right arm and scuffed up hand. I walked myself back to triage, and answered weird questions. No, my parents weren’t here. No, I didn’t want to call them. Yes, I knew my social. Yes, I had my insurance card. The nurse took my picture, and said, “By the way, hon, what’s your birthday?”
“Oh dear. I’m so sorry,” she said, wringing her hands. “We thought you were a minor. You just look so young. Okay. Okay. You’re already checked in, so I’m just going to admit you. I’m sorry. I’m so embarrassed.” She slapped a zebra-striped hospital bracelet on my wrist, and sent me back to X-Ray.
Taking off my bra was the most painful thing in the world. I couldn’t reach my arm back to unhook the strap without feeling like my shoulder was about to disconnect from the rest of my torso. I tried to lie down on the table, but couldn’t get comfortable.
“Hold still,” the tech said, and snapped a few shots. I just wanted it to be over so that I could go home and eat snacks.
I waited in a little room decorated with marine animals and filled with old Highlights Magazines and ZooBooks. Dominic yelled at someone again, and suddenly, I had a handful of hydrocodone and a cup of water to chase it down with.
The doctor came in and began palpating my sore arms and legs, back and stomach.
“Does it hurt here?” she asked. “How about here?”
Nothing hurt more than usual, and she snapped off her rubber gloves and sighed.
“No broken bones. No internal bleeding. I have no idea how you survived that.”
The painkillers kicked in.
“Maybe I’m Wolveriiiiiiiiiiiine!” I shouted. “Maybe my bones are made out of adamantium and now I have to help stop Magneto!”
“Can you at least check out her cuts?” Dom requested. “Nobody’s disinfected anything.” He was the perfect advocate—I would have gladly signed paperwork with my cut-up hand and gone home without Band-Aids or pain medication, but he kept insisting that they poke me and take blood samples and refill my supply of Goofus and Gallant.
The doctor sprayed Bactine on me, and slapped gauze on my elbow.
“Just so you know,” she said, pausing in the door frame. “This is going to hurt like hell tomorrow.”
“Really?” I asked. “It doesn’t hurt now. What’s it going to feel like?”
“Like you got hit by a truck,” she said, and closed the door.
When I got home, I couldn’t sleep, so I walked to the supermarket to buy myself popsicles and a bag of frozen peas. I watched every single episode of "Master Chef" on Hulu, and called my step-dad to break the news. I told him not to tell my mom under any circumstances, because she’d totally freak out. If she saw the insurance bills, I explained, he should just tell her that I got tapped by a taxi—nothing major—and that I had been taken to the hospital as a precautionary measure only.
But after a few hours, I stopped feeling like indestructible Wolverine, and started feeling like mid-operation Wolverine, thrashing and crying and acting like a total baby. The frozen peas did nothing. The Vicodin did nothing. The popsicles did nothing. Listening to Gordon Ramsay yell at amateur home cooks did nothing. The doctor was right. It felt like I had gotten hit by a truck.
And that’s when I got depressed. Because I was alone in my apartment, and none of my friends were available to come over, and my parents were far away, and I was single for the first time in two years. I just wanted someone to hang out with me, to take care of me and watch TV with me and buy me more popsicles, damnit, because I ran out pretty fast.
I wanted someone to help me carry my laundry downstairs and help me get dressed for work and talk to me when I couldn’t sleep because it felt like every single muscle in my entire body was being squished by one of the columns that held up the roof of the Parthenon.
I wanted a best friend and a boyfriend and my mom and it just wasn’t FAIR that I got hit by a truck and had to spend all that time in bed alone. It wasn’t fair that I had all these hospital bills to pay now, it wasn’t fair that I was by myself, it wasn’t fair that none of my friends cared about me enough to drop everything in their lives and watch 15 hours of the Food Network with me.
It took me a while to realize how selfish and stupid I was. And if I could time travel, Marty McFly style, I would go back to that Saturday in August and tell myself to cool it. I would tell myself that being alone isn’t so bad, really, once you get used to it, and that honestly, it could have been way worse. I could have died, and I was whining about how nobody brought me lasagna or offered to help me carry my groceries like I thought people were supposed to do when you got back from the hospital.
In reality, I had more than I thought. I had Dominic, who spoke to a police officer and several doctors on my behalf at the hospital, who stopped me from walking 10 blocks to the emergency room at four in the morning, who yelled at a truck driver who tried to squish me with his 18-wheeler. I had my roommate’s friend Amber, who picked up my proscriptions at CVS and a chicken pot pie frozen dinner from Marie Calendars while my roommate was at work. I had Eric at grad school in Philadelphia who sent me a giant box of cupcakes, which wasn’t lasagna, but turned out to be way, way better. I had Sarah, who mailed me a Boba Fett bobble-head doll to keep me company in my bedroom. And I had text messages and phone calls from people I loved all over the world; my cousins in England, my college professor from Texas, my best friend in Los Angeles, and my former Late Show Page buddies.
And I had, it turned out, incredible health, because I wouldn’t have been able to survive this if I didn’t. At each routine check-up over the months that followed, my doctor marveled at my lack of smashed bones, and the absence of squashed organs.
“You’re lucky,” she said, and I nodded. “You must be extremely healthy, to not break or rupture anything.”
“I do yoga sometimes,” I offered lamely.
“Keep it up,” she instructed, and I gingerly put my shirt on, wincing when I raised my arm.
Now that I’m better, I have a few things left to remember that truck driver by. I have a white scar that runs horizontally across my back. I have a little pain and soreness in my right shoulder blade that only really aches when it gets too cold outside. I have my leftover children’s hospital bracelet, tucked away in my closet as a gross souvenir. And I have this advice, to give to all of you out there: Always look both ways before you cross the fucking street.