Hell Is The Aftermath Of A Tragedy


A little less than a year ago I was involved in a car accident with my then-boyfriend. He had gotten out of the car to help a girl on the side of the road and ended up getting run over by two cars. He survived, but lost his right leg above the knee in the process. I was there for everything, the accident, the hospital, the aftermath. It took me a while to write about what happened. This is it.

I’ve seen hell and it is this:

Crouched in the middle of an icy highway bridge – cars are crashing around you. You are holding the hands of a man who is bleeding out in front of you; you are putting pressure on the blood spurting from his gut. He is telling you that he is scared. You can hear sirens in the distance but you know they’re not for you. Your sirens won’t show up for what feels like hours.

Hell is trying to remember a phone number while a man screams as tourniquets are tied around his thighs. You keep telling him that you are there and everything will be all right, even though you both know it’s not true.

Hell is seeing his leg ripped off above the knee; nothing but bone, muscle, blood – air. Hell is knowing right then and there, that he will never have that leg again.

Hell is having to call this man’s parents and tell them that you are fine, but their son is not.

Hell is sitting in the emergency room, alone, hearing this man’s agonized screams as his bones are shoved back together.

Hell is that moment of unbelievable rage at God.

Hell is having to tell his mother that he was just trying to help someone. Hell is having his father snap at you both to keep it together.

Hell is a daze. Hell is hours of describing, in minute and perfect detail, everything that happened. Hell is policemen and diagrams and words, words, words.

Hell is closing your eyes and seeing only headlights heading straight for you, hearing only yourself screaming his name and the sickening crunch of bone against vehicle.

Hell is crying yourself to sleep only to wake up from nightmares only to cry yourself to sleep again.

Hell is holding his hand. A hand that once held your own in heated embrace is now limp and temperature-less and swollen and yellowed.

Hell is living on 4 hours of sleep a night. It’s the continual up and down emotions of the aftermath of a tragedy. It’s a tiny waiting room filled with the drama of a family that already talks behind each other’s backs.

Hell is feeling trapped. It’s having a back up escape plan in case things get too hard; if things aren’t hard enough to pack everything up and drive to the other side of the country, then things aren’t that hard.

Hell is feeling alone. Hell is knowing that the one person that would be able to comfort you and give you the strength you need is in a hospital bed in a medically induced coma and now it’s your turn to be strong, but you just don’t know if you’re strong enough.

Hell is driving home after another long night at the hospital, punching the seat next to you with your fists and howling with the rage of an animal: “Why did you leave me?!”

Hell is knowing today is the day he will be waking up from his coma, so you put on the clothes you know he likes and you take extra care with your makeup and you spray yourself with his favorite perfume, even though you know you will smell like hospital anyway, and yet again you mentally steel yourself for doctors and nurses and his ever-angry father and his silent wide-eyed mother because you know finally, finally he is coming back to you.

Hell is hurrying to the hospital after work, hell is seeing his eyes flutter open when you hold his hand, hell is feeling his hand tighten on yours, hell is seeing his eyes focus and recognize yours; wet with tears, hell is nothing but gazing into each other’s faces, a bittersweet happiness as you say a simple “Hi baby” and even though he can’t quite make the words with his mouth, he’s telling you he loves you.

Hell is taking care of a man cloudy with medication, overrun with pain and wrought with emotional trauma. Hell is trying to be the kind word in his life, even through his rage, because you know it’s not meant for you.

Hell is changing his bandages, keeping him comfortable, keeping him clean, doing everything to keep him happy and then having him snap at you in front of everyone. Hell is having to pretend that it’s okay, and that you know it’s not personal, it’s just the medicine, but inside you’re screaming for the man you loved to come back.

Hell is staying in his hospital room as his nurses take care of him and hearing his whimpers of pain as they move his broken body and seeing his eyes focus on yours as if he is using them to escape.

Hell is crying alone in the bathroom of a hospital because whenever he sees your tears he immediately opens his arms for you and apologizes and promises to be better but you know he won’t change because you know this isn’t him talking, it’s the medicine, but it seems like he manages to have a caring word for everyone BUT you so whenever you feel like crying you walk-run to the bathroom so you don’t have to explain why you’re upset.

Hell is living on the edge of insanity.