Wednesday, February 18, 2015
The poet Anne Waldman was at Kelly Writers House. I'd experience her, then meet with a student, then conduct my three-hour class.
The day didn't turn out quite as I had hoped it would. There is a four-lane road (Lancaster Avenue) that I must cross to get from my house to my train station. There were no cars coming from the west. There was one car coming from the east. He stopped. Waved me on. I waved back at him indicating I could wait. He insisted. And so I walked across the street, thanked the man in the waiting car with a wave, and was struck—such a noise it was—by an old van that had barreled in from a seeming nowhere. That fourth lane. In from the east.
I had not seen so much as a glint of it.
It was hard, at first, to make sense of who or where I was. Just a woman who had lost her hat, a woman whose iPad and iPhone in their bright red bag had taken a huge brunt of the hit. A woman with sudden, terrible pain, but I was standing, wasn't I? I was standing. It wasn't my head. It wasn't my legs. I was upright, talking, consoling the man and his wife who had hit me — Don't worry. Don't worry. Thanking the man who had waved me over for stopping. Thank you.
I need to take you to the hospital, he said. Let me take you to the hospital.
I can't, I said. I can't. I have to teach.
You need the hospital.
I can't. It's just my arm. I don't think it's broken.
I saw how hard you were hit. You need the hospital.
I'll go to the hospital down at Penn.
He agreed to let me go. He pointed to my hat, still on the road. To the van's side mirror, that had been clipped off by the impact with my arm. A second later, I thought. A second more. A nano more of anything, and— Don't think about it. Don't you dare what if this, Kephart.
The train finally came. I climbed on. Sunk into my seat. Held the flame of my triple-sized arm. I didn't realize how much I was trembling until a woman sat beside me and I turned and I said that I'd just been hit by a van. I don't know what impelled me, really, why I felt the need to share, but that is what I said.
Angels of mercy. That's what the day became.
To this woman, my seat mate, who arrived at 30th Street Station with me, who insisted on a taxi, who rode the taxi with me, who paid the cab driver to take me to the HUP emergency room against every single one of my protestations, who wrote afterward.
To the student who passed the news quickly on to all my other lovelies (Prof Kephart may be late).
To my students, my beautiful students, who sent their healing words.
To my friends at Temple University Press writing with kindness (and good news).
To my neighbor who heard the news from Temple and wrote with love.
To my husband and my father and my son on the phone, and, therefore, close.
To the x-rays that revealed no broken bones. To the doctor who provided the splint, the ice, the pain killers, and released me just in time to make it to class, to teach memoir.
To my students, again, for our wholly imperfect perfect day.
Do you know how lucky you are, Beth Kephart?
Yes, I do. Yes. I do.