the boy i hit

His name is Tiernan. He has strawberry blonde hair with one of those scarf hats shaped like an animal of some sort–a bear? a raccoon? I cursed someone who took cuts in front of me at the four-way stop. I looked to my right. Nothing. I looked to my left. Nothing. I stepped on the gas. Suddenly, the boy was right in front of me, on a pine green bicycle. The car thumped into him and I saw a flash of his hair and he was down. I threw the cup of tea in my hand onto the passenger seat. I put the car in what I thought was Park but was in fact Neutral, and jumped out. The boy was already standing up, seemingly unfazed. “I’m okay,” he said. I was trembling. “Are you sure?” “Yeah,” he said, and began walking his bike across the street. The car began rolling backward, nearly hitting the pick-up behind me, so I jumped inside. I could feel the eyes from all of the other cars bearing down on me, waiting to see what I would do. I felt the weight of their judgment, their impatience, their concern for the boy. I somehow managed to get the car pulled out of the way. The boy was already a block away. I ran after him. Another woman who had witnessed the accident was already speaking with him. She eyed me suspiciously and got back into her truck and watched me talk to the boy. I asked him if he was okay at least 10 more times. I guessed that he was about 12 or 13, and he seemed as uninterested in speaking with me about this as he might be about speaking with any woman in her 30s about anything. A white wire from his iPod trailed up his arm and into his right ear. Still shaking, I gave him my name and my phone number and asked him his for his parents’ number. I am sorry. I am so sorry, I told him. Please call me if you need to go to the doctor later. Please let me fix your bike if it is broken. There wasn’t a scratch, either on the boy or his bike, but I just kept thinking of that Raymond Carver story “A Small Good Thing.” I kept thinking of my boys. This boy could be bleeding or worse. I didn’t see him. How did I not see him? I returned to my car and slumped down into the puddle of tea and broke into tears. I called his mother when I got home and I left her a message. This happened about an hour ago. I am still shaking. I hope the boy is okay. It’s so easy for everything to change very quickly, and I’m just grateful it wasn’t worse.

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7 thoughts on “the boy i hit

  1. Jen Conover says:

    My heart is beating so hard after reading this. David and I were talking about this sort of thing not long ago. You know, how there’s almost a gap of time where one feels like all is well then something happens. So glad for the boy and for you that it might be all okay. Geez. This isn’t a way to end a work week. And, since he’s okay, I want to yell at him the lyrics of that safety song “stop, look, and LISTEN (which you cant do if there’s earbuds in!) before you cross the street”

  2. I think I know just how you feel. The same thing happened to me once at a four-way stop, in the same way, only the boy was older and he was driving a car. He was driving really fast (which is why I didn’t see him when I checked if anything was coming from the right and then looked left). The car ran up a tree and was totaled. We talked and talked, and he said he was all right. I gave him my information and got his address, which was in the neighborhood. I went to the house later that night, and his father came to the door but wouldn’t really open it. He told me that his son was in the hospital. He told me which hospital, and I went to see him the next day, to take him a small gift, but he was asleep. I went back to the house and spoke to the father again, through a little grate in the door. It turned out that the father was a doctor and had taken his son to the hospital where he practiced, for observation, but nothing was really wrong. What puzzled me for the longest time was why the father was not angry with me, threatening to sue, etc. etc. This was an immigrant family, and I came to the conclusion that they were afraid I was going to sue THEM because their son was speeding. I never heard from them again. The worst part of it was that I had always dreaded (still do dread) hitting someone with a car. I know that I would never intentionally injure someone, so my worst fear was always that I would somehow do it accidentally, while driving. This incident has haunted me ever since, and needless to say, it didn’t take away the fear. I think of the fear as a good one to have, but I still (35 years later) wish wish wish that I’d never had that experience, even though the boy wasn’t hurt. I hope you can keep reminding yourself that it wasn’t your fault and that he’s okay. Sympathetically yours, Patty

    • Patty, Thank you for sharing that story with me. I’m so sorry you went through that. I know on a logical level that everything is fine but this just shook me up really bad. I hope you are doing well and that you have a beautiful holiday season.

  3. Twice in one week I was hit while running or walking down the sidewalk by small filipinas in large SUVs. It’s a funny feeling to be running down the sidewalk and the next news you know be flying through the air. I thought I must have hit a hydrant that I didn’t see.

    This does not show that you’re more likely to be bumped on the sidewalk by small Filipinas in large SUVs than by other human-vehicle combinations.

  4. Eric Shamp says:

    People bump into each other in the strangest ways. It is astonishing to me that it doesn’t happen more often, the way we insist on moving around, trusting that everyone is as aware of our selves as we ourselves are.

    I am sorry this happened to you, just as I am sorry for the person who will surely hit me while I’m riding my bike someday. Dear future rattled driver: I am responsible for my own personal safety, and I accept the risks of sharing the road.

    • It is unsettling to be suddenly made aware of how tenuous everything is. I drive way too much and there are many narrow misses–just yesterday a car came into my lane on the freeway and I had to swerve out of their way to avoid a collision. I have been obsessing about this all evening, and I can’t imagine how horrible it would be if I hurt or killed someone. I hope I never find out.

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