In February last year, I was hit by a car. I was on a busy street, in a crowded area of Sydney’s inner west. I was jaywalking - as Sydney siders do all the time - rushing around the city, trying to catch that elusive Sunday bus service. The car hit my legs and I was catapulted into the air, my body smashing into the windscreen and then ricocheting onto the hot, black tar.
Six weeks on and I’m doing just fine; I’m a miracle patient. I can walk, go to university, work as a waitress, travel; I’m overwhelmed by my body’s resilience everyday. When I recount what happened, to friends, family and strangers, they often ask: “were you alone?”
Technically I was on my own, but I never feel that way. I was immediately surrounded by a concerned crowd of onlookers. I later found out, from the policewoman, that there were over fifty people staring at a fucked up car, a traffic jam, and a still body. It’s at this point that I should mention that I hate drawing attention to myself in public spaces. One of the things I value the most about Sydney is the anonymity that comes with living within it. I remember, amongst the panic, confusion and pain, wishing that my hair would cover my face, that the burning tar would suck me in and that people would just fuck off. But I couldn’t move, I could barely speak.
There was a woman, she was one of the first at my side; the only one on my level. She laid her legs beside me on the scolding tar road, and arched her back so that she blocked my head and chest from the afternoon sun, and peoples probing eyes. The shade her body provided was the most comforting presence throughout that terrible time on the road. She held my shoulders and pulled my hair out of my mouth so I could speak to the driver, police and paramedics. She instructed another man, to carefully place a towel under my legs when I whispered: “my legs are burning.” I never considered that her legs would have been burning too, until now.
She stayed until I was put into the ambulance. She single handily took a chaotic, public car accident and turned it into something intimate, private and protected. I never saw her face, she was behind me the entire time, and honestly, I couldn’t handle what was happening. Three hours later, in the emergency room, the nurse informed me that “a woman keeps calling, she doesn’t know you, but she was there, at the accident, on the road. She wants to know if your okay?”
I wasn’t ready to express my gratitude, or how much she had helped me, how much her care and concern mattered when none of my family or my friends were even aware that I had been in a serious car accident. Hers was the first voice that contacted me in the hospital. The trauma of the accident was shared between us; neither knew what the fuck had happened or what kind of damage had been done. I had no idea what her name was or what she looked like but I’m confident that we both had angry red burns and gravel rash along our calves, knees and thighs.
I wanted her to know that I was okay, I wanted to know if she was okay, but I wasn’t ready yet. I closed my eyes and turned my body just slightly, with the little mobility that I could muster. The nurse passed on the message that I was okay, my vitals were good, no broken bones, I wasn’t in any pain (always take the morphine when its offered) and that I was very grateful for her concern.
She will never know how grateful I am, how exceptional she was, how her body was a shelter to me. No, I was not alone, I had her.
Pia is an aspiring historian from Canberra. She spends her time staring at the gumtree outside her window and eating yum cha with her mum. She has three marble pears in her bedroom and isn't 100% sure where the cat that she lives with came from. She will rarely turn down a glass of wine, but will definitely finish a bottle. You can lurk her @punlopp.