1. Ontario is a province of periodic ice storms. Big ones, nasty ones, ones that come in big and powerful and loud and whose consequences linger for days on end.
Accidents are not meant to happen, but they happen anyway. From the outside looking in, watching the accident as it happens, it can sometimes seem less of an accident and more a twist of fate.
There was a terrible ice storm that hit Toronto years ago – not the one where the mayor called in the army, but one a few ice storms after that. Stephen and I had decided to drive back into the city after visiting my parents about hour or so away. The storm was gentle at first, just but a touch – a whisper really – of inclement weather that seemed innocent enough, weak enough, fleeting enough.
But then. Well.
But then it was too late.
Slowly, imperceptibly and then all at fucking once, the highway became slick with snow and ice; the highway was a waterslide, a slough of cold, wet malice. We inched along, pumping the brakes as we skidded here & there, to & fro, as side became front became side became back & front again, as we lost track of the lanes, as we lost all sense of direction and any semblance of hope.
All around us, cars, vans and trucks crashing into each other, skidding at wicked angles down wrong lanes, striking the median with their bumpers and hoods, plunging into ditches.
And yet somehow we made it. Whole, without one scratch, through the melee traffic. Not one scratch, despite the calamity, the sheer inevitably of it for everyone else, anyone else at all but us.
2. The bird darted out of the woods and smacked into the grill of the car so hard and so suddenly that it took a full moment to register what had happened, even as the windshield was showered by a burst of blue, white and black feathers. There was also some blood, but not as much as you might think. Just flecks. Nothing outwardly incriminating.
My field director was driving and all he could say at first was, “Huh.”
Pulling the car over to the side of the road allowed us to fully realize what had happened. It’s almost worse than I can tell: the bird had melded with the grill of the car. It was as if one had become the other. They had become inseparable, the car and, of all things, a Blue Jay. Rare enough to see one of those these days.
It could have hit any car, but it hit ours. It could have hit any car, so it hit ours.
Feathers of blue, white and black against chrome. Any car, really, there were so many out on the road that day. Or maybe even none at all. If only.
What kind of a luck is that? What events or factors or circumstances, like the planets above, had to align for that poor bird to so inelegantly thwack against a random/not so random car.
So many things.
Too many things to count, that are, finally, worth counting.
3. We had never had a flat tire before that flat tire, and never had one since (so far). It was summer and the drive was fine – smooth, uneventful – and then we started kind of thumping, tottering, hobbling Not exactly a pleasant sensation. Not one I’d recommend offhand.
We parked precariously on the side of a ditch. A cop stopped to ask us what we were up to (“Nothing going on here, is there folks?”), then piled back into his cruiser and drove away when it was clear the situation wasn’t any more nefarious than the changing of a flat tire. He honked, waved goodbye (“You got this.).
Neither of us had ever changed a tire before. It took us a long, long time but we managed to switch out the tire for its spare. Elated yet defeated (the plan had been to visit Stephen’s sister but we had spent too long changing the tire and it was too late), we got back on the road and turned off the next exit, homebound.
Days later my aunt told me she and my other aunt, their spouses and my cousins had passed us on the highway while we were stranded, in the ditch, attempting to change that tire.
“You looked like you needed help,” laughed her husband. They didn’t feel like stopping, it turns out, because then they would have had to take the exit and backtrack. No one wanted that. Who would want that?
Strange how a moment can bring you together or rip you apart. Funny how coincidence works itself out.
Years later, he lost all the money he and my aunt had, and they, in turn, lost their cars and their house and were forced to sell most of their things, including all their precious koi from the, frankly, undersized pond that held them.
They separated. A year later, he died.
Huh. Didn’t see that one coming, not by a long shot.