clipped by a van on a wintry day — and then

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

I left the house early yesterday morning with the hope of catching one of the trains that now run at random, unpredictable hours during this winter of snow and ice.

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.

Thank you.

To the student who passed the news quickly on to all my other lovelies (Prof Kephart may be late).

Thank you.

To my students, my beautiful students, who sent their healing words.

Thank you.

To my friends at Temple University Press writing with kindness (and good news).

Thank you.

To my neighbor who heard the news from Temple and wrote with love.

Thank you.

To my husband and my father and my son on the phone, and, therefore, close.

Thank you.

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.

Thank you.

To my students, again, for our wholly imperfect perfect day.

Thank you.

Do you know how lucky you are, Beth Kephart?

Yes, I do. Yes. I do.

7 comments:

Serena said...

I hope that you take care of yourself.

Jennifer Hoppins said...

I'm so thankful you are okay Beth! How scary and disorienting. Maybe your "what if" is just part of processing this event.

April Lindner said...

Oh, Beth. I'm so glad it wasn't worse, but still.

kelly said...

Oh dear God!!! I'm so glad you were fine and that someone on the train helped you. I love the people you encountered, even though I hate that you were hurt. Weirdly -- I was hit (much less forcefully) by a backing up SUV last week, as I was walking near the road -- and I was filled with fury and what-ifs and how lucky was I that no other car was behind mes -- but my story had no angel in it -- remind me to tell you the funny ending to mine. It will make you feel EVEN LUCKIER. XOXOXO

Mandy King said...

Oh my gosh! Beth, that sounds so scary! Glad to hear you're okay.

Sarah Laurence said...

How awful! I'm relieved that someone insisted you go to the ER. You were in shock. It's quite a normal reaction to an accident. I'm sending you healing thoughts. Take some time to recover.

Kimberley Griffiths Little said...

What a scary experience! I am so glad you're okay, but I'm sure you've been very shaken ever since. Hope you and your family are giving you lots of TLC. xoxo

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