One of the things I told myself in the days immediately following the accident was that in a year it would be just another one of those things in the past that we forget about unless we stumble across a reminder. That thought was really comforting to me at the time, when I was having trouble processing the entire event. Although I felt unable to form a reaction at the time -- was I angry? scared? upset? relieved it hadn't been worse? -- I felt immeasurably better knowing that at this point next year, the whole thing's effect on me would have passed.
It made me feel better at the time, but it wasn't true. That accident still affects me a great deal. Mostly it's my knee, which still hurts. I think the surgery helped, but it's hard to tell. Instead of feeling irritated all the time, my knee just turns bright red and runs its own personal fever at seemingly random times. It's hard to sit through a movie if I can't put my leg up on the seat in front of me. I have to ice it several times a day, both at work and at home. It's not ruining my life, but it's enormously annoying and a huge source of frustration.
There are other things, too. My driving has suffered. I hate making lane changes on the highway, especially at night. I cringe whenever I hear squealing tires. I annoy Joel, who I still make do almost all of the driving even though my knee is capable of working the clutch now, by flinching when I think he's following too closely behind another car. In short, I'm afraid. I feel constantly on edge thinking that another crash could happen at any time.
Maybe a dose of fear is healthy when we're talking about two-ton heaps of metal traveling at highway speeds, but I think that's more than counteracted by my loss in confidence.
It could have been worse. I know that, and it's a consolation.
At this moment last year, it hadn't happened. I wish there was some way to reach back in time and not get in that car. To choose a different night to go out, to pick a different theater. To miss or make one light along the way. To make some small change, any change that would put us somewhere other than in front of that kid's car.
I hope that at this point next year, it will be something I don't think about anymore.