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By Michelle Johnson
Ah, youth. The time to frolic, fall in love, run over a man, and dance dance dance.
Wait, what was that third one???
Yes, You read that right. At 21 years of age, I ran over a man.
Ran. Over. A. Man. Full-on.
It was a late winter night, very mild, and I was driving down a road known for its sprawling farmland and huge deer population, so I was already going slowly, about 40 miles per hour (the speed limit was 55.) This road was also known for its cusp-of-the-city-limits honky-tonk dive bar.
I came up on a little blind hill, and as I crested it, I noticed an eighteen-wheeler stopped about a hundred yards in front of me on the horizon. I immediately slammed on my brakes, and simultaneously as I did so, noticed a man stretched completely out over the road, head at the yellow lines and feet toward the white line. And here's the harrowing part: My car stopped ON HIM. That's how little time I had to react to the rig in front of me and come to a full stop.
After covering my face and screaming for what felt like hours, I managed to roll my car off of the man. Later it was determined that my car was only on him for seconds, but they were the longest seconds of my life. No one will ever know how incredibly gut-wrenching and horrific that was. I still have flashbacks almost weekly.
By this point, the driver of the rig was running toward my vehicle, screaming, and I went into what I refer to as my Twilight Zone mode. I actually went into medical shock, but entering The Twilight Zone was what it felt like at the time and for a great while afterward.
I honestly and sincerely, in the space of mere seconds, convinced myself that this trucker was out there on a country road luring girls to their untimely demise, fooling them with a fake dummy tossed into the road. I just KNEW he was going to open the back of his eighteen-wheeler, let down the ramp, and make me drive up into it, never to be heard of again.
I knew this to be true, because otherwise, I had just killed someone (to end the suspense, I hadn't even come close.) Aside from being insanely horrified, I was truly, in every sense of the word, terrified. And so I would only crack my window to hear the screeching rig driver telling me he had "dodged" this person in the road, looked into his rear view to see him fall, and then stopped. (You'll understand the quotes around the word dodged in a bit.)
I screamed at him, because I didn't believe him (see: SHOCK) and I drove to the nearest neighbor's house, about a quarter mile away. I'll just assume those were some seriously freaked out people, to hear a young woman banging on their door at midnight screaming about running over a dummy and people plotting to kill her. Oy.
On my way back, the trucker had set out flares and I noticed a car stopped near where the man's body had been. A woman then walked over to my car and knocked on the window. After seeing that the man had been moved, I was doubly convinced this was a plot, so I had my head buried in the steering wheel and the doors locked.
I know that I make this seem all about me, but the alternative at the time was too much for my brain and heart to handle.
The person who stopped was an off-duty nurse, and she'd been over to the (in my mind, undoubtedly dead) man, and tried to look him over. As it turns out, he was stinking drunk and told her that a big tree had come out of the woods and smacked him (remember that detail later.) He also told her to "Get off (him), you fat bitch!"
She was trying to tell me all of this, trying to calm me down, and I was screaming at her through the crack in the window how I KNEW she was involved in the attempted kidnapping and how I HATED her, so, you know, poor nurse. Abuse from the both of us! I still feel sad for insulting her, and I would forever like to give her thanks, if I could ever find her now.
An ambulance arrived, followed by my parents, and they finally talked me into getting out of the car. After taking my vital signs, the ambulance had to take ME to the damned hospital, because my vitals were indicating I was in stroke country. At the hospital, I saw the drunk man in the next room and finally started to believe everyone, that he had really been in the road, and that the old adage in one of its many forms must be true: God has a special providence for drunks and fools. He only had scratches and slight bruising.
Yes, you read that correctly. My car STOPPED ON THE MAN, SAT FOR A FEW SECONDS, ROLLED OFF, and he sustained only scratches and slight bruising.
And here's the dodgy "dodged" part: Where I ran over this young man was a half-mile down the road from the aforementioned honky-tonk, and where the driver of the rig had to "dodge" him, there was no side of the road to walk on, just an immediate drop-off. Even the attending officer noticed this.
We all to this day believe that the eighteen-wheeler's side mirror (the "big tree" the young man mentioned) clipped him as he was drunkenly walking in the road and knocked him back onto the highway, but we have no concrete evidence of that.
Now, part of the reason my family and I also believe that detail is because, on that same road about twenty miles away, the same thing happened to my father as a young man. He was driving behind an eighteen-wheeler at night and a man was walking dangerously close to the side of the road when the rig's mirror hit him and knocked him into my dad's path.
Sadly and horrifically, my father killed that man, may he rest in peace. Reminded of this story later, I understood my father's complete and utter look of terror when he first came upon the scene of my accident. He saw what had happened and immediately knew how.
Now, for the sad and true Twilight Zone ending: About three days later, I came upon the scene of an automobile accident on my way to work. It had just happened and I was there before the police arrived. A woman had T-boned another woman and they were subsequently out in the parking lot of a pawn shop, fist-fighting.
Now, at the time, this was a funny sight, and not that surprising considering where I am from. I drove on into work and told the story while phoning co-workers and telling them to take an alternate route into their shifts.
A few days later, I came into work again and the busboy handed me an article from the local paper. What I didn't know at the time of the accident I witnessed was that the car that had been T-boned had a passenger in the front seat that I did not see, and he had been killed immediately.
As I kept reading, the contents of the article were deeply saddening and contained life-changing news.
Killed on impact was the young man I had rolled over with my car on the lonely highway. And no matter what my religious beliefs, I think I was meant to be there somehow when he left this world.
The young man's name was [redacted,] and may he rest peacefully, knowing, in some strange way, that he is remembered daily.