It was years ago, April. The weather was wet and gray and sprinkles of water dripped from the clouds as if the angels were spitting on the earth. My niece was strapped in her seat asleep, her head hung limply over the seat-belt. My sister drove her old, white Volvo carefully instead of just careening around the road like she usually would in less inclement weather. She mad a right then went straight onto the empty highway. The car was silent and dark and my sister was leaned in close to the steering wheel, like our mother. The heater was turned off so it wouldn't put her to sleep at the wheel. So the car was also cold. The rain began to let up, and soon, stopped completely. As we drove from under a bridge I noticed something on the side of the road. It was a green van, it was turned upside down.
"Pull over Dee Dee! Look!" I exclaimed to my sister. She swerved then slowed down to a stop right beside the toppled van. we heard someone yell, "Help!"
It was a man, he had a strong accent that i guessed was Latin. My sister stayed in the car with her daughter, who waking up, and I rushed over to the van. I went to the driver's side and the man called to me. "Miss, my wife! My daughter! Back! In back!" Then he started panicking and praying in his native language. His eyes were shut, he held a rosemary necklace that dangled from his neck, and he spoke low to himself. I got on my hands and knees and looked through the man's window, which was shattered open. I could see a little girl in the backseat hanging by her seat-belt, crying. She looked at me through weak eyes and whimpered, "Help us, please."
I told her I would, not know exactly how just yet, and i ran over to the opposite side of the van, where she was. In the passenger's side i saw the man's wife. She was at least seven or eight months pregnant. Her belly was big as a healthy watermelon, her face was covered with small cuts from broken glass, and her forehead was bruised purple and blue, the woman was knocked out cold. I took off my jacket and tucked it under the woman's seat-belt, so it could be a cushion that would block the belt from her belly. It would be too difficult to get her out first, she looked heavy, and since she was unconscious she would be hard to lift. I was cold and terrified, but I tried my best not to show it in my face. The last thing I wanted to do was scare the little girl even more. The door to the back seat was bent at the roof (which in this case was on the bottom, on the ground) and i knew I shouldn't try to open it in my own recent condition, but still i tried. I pulled the lever toward myself, then dragged the door to the right. My hand kept slipping on the wet handle, but I managed to open the door an inch. once the opening was wide enough for my hands to fit in I shoved them in and pulled the sliding door more steadily until it was all the way open, then I climbed in. My hands had no feeling and my arms were goose-bumped. I was on my knees on the ceiling of the van and the little girl was hanging overhead. Her hair was brushing my face while i tried to find the buckle too her seat-belt. When I found it I couldn't get it unhooked because all the girl's weight was on it. I placed myself directly under her and told her to put her hands on my shoulders and push. She followed orders, and I looked at her red face right into her wet eyes. I talked her through the process.
"What's your name?" I asked.
"M-M- Mariella." She sputtered out.
"Well, little Miss Mariella, you are doing good. I will have this off you in no time." I don't think she was falling for my pseudo-calmness.
"Is my mommy okay?" She asked in perfect English.
"Yes, she's fine. But right now we have to focus on you, alright?"
'Click.' The seat-belt came off and the girl fell into my arms. She was clinging to me, her arms around my neck, her legs around my waist, her trust in me. I began to shiver. I rushed to my car with Mariella in tow and sat her inside by my niece.
"Drive to the nearest phone and call an ambulance!" I demanded. Then I told my niece to share her quilt with Mariella, Then I returned to the battered scene which was the crashed van with the man and his wife still inside.. The man's face was beet red and he was drenched in sweat. As Dee Dee drove off I tried to get the pregnant woman out. I couldn't open her door very far and couldn't move around enough through the window to try and pull her seat-belt off. The belt would have to be cut. I asked the man for scissors.
"Scissors?" He asked back.
"Do you have scissors?" I reiterated, making a scissoring hand gesture.
"Where my daughter?" He struggled to ask while trying to get his own seat-belt off.
"Your daughter is safe. She's with my sister and they'll find a phone and call an ambulance, okay?"
"Okay." He groaned almost grudgingly. "The trunk. The scissors in the trunk." He finally said.
I crawled back to the back seat, where the dented sliding door was still ajar, and looked through a bunch of tool and nails and screws and finally I found a large pair of hedge clippers.
Pushing those giant scissors under that seat belt was difficult. I don't know how I did it, but I didn't even rid the woman's shirt. Then, snip, snip, snap, I cut the seat belt and before the woman fell i turned her on her side and let her fall on me. I let out a scream. Her elbow hit my stomach. I almost cried. I shimmied myself out of the car, then I remembered the man on the driver's side. He was still upside down, all the blood rushing to his head. I made my way over to his side, walking around the front of the van. My hand was glued to my stomach, every time I took a step i had to wince in pain. My stomach was hurting me so bad. Once I was in front of the man, I went straight for his seat-belt. He was reluctant about accepting my help it seemed, but still I cut his belt and he landed on his shoulder. He yelled in Spanish then began to tend to his wife. He dragged her to the backseat on his hands and knees, then pulled her out the door. I limped over to the fractured couple and bent over while holding onto what felt like the weight of the world in my belly right above my pelvis. A red, white, and navy blue ambulance with the word Civista written big and neat on one side sped down the road to us. Two police cars and a fire truck also came blaring up the road. The siren was flaring and the red lights were blinking. I guess it was either the loud, bright ambulance or time, but the pregnant woman came to. She first looked at the ambulance, then to her husband, then finally her large brown eyes came to the short bent figure, who had anguish in her face, that had just saved her.
"Quia! Quia!" The man yelled to the woman, hugging her and kissing her. They both spoke to one another in their language as men in white and red got out of the matching ambulance. The woman was carried away on a stretcher and the man followed, but he stopped.
"My daughter?" He asked me glaring.
Almost as if planned, a white Volvo came to a stop beside the ambulance and a little girl got out of the vehicle.
"Papi!" She said, sounding perfectly Latin this time. She hugged her father and they both got inside the ambulance. with the pregnant lady.
"she saved us." The little girl informed the driver and her mother pointing in my direction.
"Thank you." The woman said in bad English.
"You're very welcome, ma'am." Though her and I may've been the same age, seeing her protruding middle, I felt the need to be extra respectful.
One of those men in the red and white jumpsuits came to me and asked if I was alright. I nodded and waved him away. The pregnant woman became silent and held her bulging belly.
"Feel?" She then asked me.
My eyes looked at her blankly and my hand touched her belly. Little feet kicked in every direction created vibrations that made my heart beat faster. A little human was in there, still alive after all this, fighting. When the baby stopped kicking for me I moved my hand and put it back on my own stomach. Before I departed with the family, I gave them my home phone number and address. The pregnant woman hugged m ten times and thanked me again, the EM T's from the ambulance and a few cops good-jobbed me and shook my hand, the little girl thanked me millions of times, but the man, he said nothing to me, the glare in his eyes said it all. He was not grateful to me. He almost killed his family and someone else had to save them all. He was ashamed.
As my sister drove, putting miles between us and the almost-tragedy, she asked me,
"Do you still want to go?" She didn't say where, we both already knew.
I smiled, thought about the woman who's belly was big as a watermelon. I thought of how happy she was when she felt her baby kicking inside of her, how I felt electric shocks in my fingers when I touched the hump. Then I looked at my sister and caressed my flat stomach that held a growing human in it's core. The human I was on my way to kill at a clinic. I opened my lips and said, "Turn around, let's go home."
- Title: April '92
- Artist: kisha bisha
- Description: the short story of my mother's most life changing (and my life starting) event. i speak in first person because i feel closer to my mother in that way. this tale means so much to me. please enjoy it as i do.
- Date: 05/07/2009
- Tags: april