Friday evening Chw and I had a hot date to sign some papers and do a small Costco run for a few produce staples. We are completely wild and crazy now that we are empty nesters… The plan had been that I would meet him at 6, at the paper-signing place, which incidentally happened to be located halfway between his work and our home. I spent a good chunk of the day Friday hanging out with a friend, which was lovely. I noticed as the afternoon progressed and the air pressure was getting more intense. (yeah, I’m one of those people with super powers known as chronic illness, and can sense such things.) By the time the clock shown 4:30 I had this pounding headache and I KNEW that it would be unsafe for me to drive. I texted my husband and the following exchange ensued:
M-Hey, My head is all of a sudden killing me. Do you want to reschedule or would you be able to come home and us go together.
C- I’ll come home and pick you up. I love you!
He’s pretty cool like that, right? (Please realize here how stupid I felt asking for such a dumb thing, and how bad I felt that he would have to do so much driving. Although, at the same time, what he was going to do for an hour while he waited for the appointment, I wasn’t sure.)
At 5:05 Chw texted to let me know he was on his way and at 5:15 my headache completely dissipated. I felt like a jerk! It was a very obvious disappearance. I sat still for about 5 minutes wondering if it was really gone, and it was. Since the route he takes home is completely different from the route to our meeting place, calling him and telling him I could make it would have only complicated things. So, instead, I putted around for fifteen minutes taking care of small chores that he usually does, in an effort to make it up to him. (Guilt driven, on my part.) I then decided to wait outside for him so I could just hop in the car and we could head out.
At 5:38 my husband calls me…
Hey, I just nearly hit this guy. He was coming at me so fast, in his car, in the wrong lane. I don’t think he was conscious. He slammed into the pond and I’m not sure what to do.
M- oh my gosh, did you call 911?
C- yes, they’ve been called. His car is sinking but people who live by the pond are telling me not to go in, that it’s not safe. I’m not sure if 911 will get here fast enough.
M- oh my gosh. Why isn’t it safe?
C- It’s pretty gross and there could be glass and stuff in it. You can’t see a thing. Wait, this guy showed up and he’s going in. I’m going in.
M- ok! Where is this pond? (because obviously I wanted to go there.)
C- in our neighborhood. I’m going in.
M- ok. Put the phone down first, I love you! (I said this only because his voice was real jittery and I worried he wouldn’t think about it in all of the chaos.)
I immediately began walking in the direction of our neighborhood entrance. I had no idea, to be honest, that there was any sort of pond. Then, as I’m walking, I remembered a few weeks back when we saw these kids walking with fishing poles and Chw said “I hope they don’t eat fish from that pond, if it even has fish.” And I remember wondering what the heck he was even talking about.
Turns out it is really easy to find a pond when everyone is hanging around it. As I get there, my husband is treading water in a 10 ft deep pond, keeping a CAR afloat while another guy is cutting the seatbelt to get this guy out. Once the unconscious man is out of the car, Chw lets go of the car (which sinks pretty rapidly) and swims over to help the guy bring the unconscious man to the bank.
The victim is on land and awake before emergency response teams appear. He has no idea where he is at, or what has happened, and possibly not even who he was, he’s so out of it. My beautiful, brave husband is covered from neck to toe in grey-green sludge. His clothes had to be ten pounds heavier. It was a pretty intense experience and still my husband is having a tough time with it. We have different perspectives, he and I, and this experience has been a clear example of where his mind often goes… The one thing we do see the same is that the entire experience restored my faith in humanity a little bit. I kept saying that, throughout the evening. Of the dozen plus people out there watching, high on the emotion and adrenaline of the situation, not one person was filming a thing. No one was Facebook living or documenting that this was happening just beyond his or her front door. I am not going to lie- I fell in love with our neighborhood a little bit.
The facts, as I see them, timeline a little like this:
- Chw wasn’t even supposed to be there, we were supposed to be meeting up somewhere else.
- Around the time that I would have been leaving, is when this guy plowed through the oncoming traffic lane (would have been my lane) and nearly missed a home before slamming into the pond.
- There was a woman walking her dogs on the sidewalk. One dog was dragging, out of character, and the speeding car missed her because of that.
- To anyone who could see the area where all of this occurred, that he made it from the highway to the pond without hitting someone/something/a home/fellow drivers is unexplainable.
- The entire crowd of people, who live on the pond side of things, was urging my husband NOT to go in, when a guy appeared out of nowhere (no one knew him) and once the victim was on shore, the stranger once again vanished. Of all of the people watching from their patios, from the crowd, no one could explain where he went. Dozens and dozens of “he was just here’s” flowed through the crowd.
- Minus the mystery guy, and my husband, no one else wanted to go in. A few people helped in their own way… A guy had a knife to cut the seatbelt. Another guy produced a shovel for Chw to hold on to for leverage to swim the car closer to the bank.
- My husband is a hero.
My husband’s take on the event is that he should have done more; That he shouldn’t have questioned it and just gone in; That he should have been more helpful; that he shouldn’t feel on edge or nervous when he’s driving now; that his involvement wasn’t a big deal so he doesn’t know why he hasn’t slept great and has been on edge since Friday evening.
We left before the news came. He didn’t want to be interviewed and I completely understood. (also, he looked like a swamp monster and so no one would have believed it was really him anyway.) (I’m kidding, of course.) Knife guy stayed and told the story well. Saturday the sheriff called my husband and left a beautiful voicemail. I was in an aisle of Target when my wide-eyed husband played it, choked up, and then handed it to me to hear. Fat tears filled my eyes because this man was really proud and grateful for my husband and I knew exactly how he felt.
I explained to Chw that trauma comes in all shapes and sizes. That what he experienced was traumatic stress, first from narrowly avoiding colliding with this guy (and we’ve all been in those types of situations and it is JARRING) to watching this horrible situation unfold (the car went airborne twice, you guys!) and then the very process of saving his life. It’s a lot. And the aftermath of stressful, traumatic situations is a lot to navigate through. He’s catching a yoga class tonight and I really hope that helps, but mostly this will just take time.
Make what you will of my headache, our change of plans or the disappearing stranger, my opinion is not going to change. It isn’t the first time that unexplained things have happened to my husband. (have I told you about the couch and the stairs? No? Perhaps, most recently, his bumper? also no? Another time, perhaps…) I just wanted to share the story and how extraordinary my husband is, and to give a huge shout out to this small corner of the world who did not prioritize social media over humanity.