Something about spring in Indiana really brings the roadside crosses to bloom. I mean that in the most respectful way possible.
Perhaps my having grown up in Dallas, the large and widely distributed city it was, made me unaware of the number of people getting their number pulled on the road each day. Maybe people in Dallas just don't make a big deal about it. Or maybe it's because everyone drives like an asshole with the beer shits, hastily en route to the nearest toilet, such that everyone is accustomed to dealing with the Pandora's Box of the highway with more skillful tact.
There is one roadside cross I will never forget.
I had to give up my car last year because finances simply could not keep up with the burden. This put me in the interesting situation of having to walk about three miles one way to the nearest bus stop. Considering the circumstances, paired with the reality that the nearest store of any variety was a mile away, I had to rely on friends and my roommate for the occasional beer run, McDonald's binge or grocery shopping.
Well this was one of those days. I bribed Andrew with the promise he could share the spoils if he would be so kind as to take me up to the store to grab some tasty domestic piss beer. It was a drinking kind of day. He agreed and so we proceeded to head out.
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That map was where we lived. And as you can probably tell, I could see all the way down to the intersection of the main road (Stop 18) pretty easily.
So as we got in the car, we noticed that there were several cars lined up leading to the exit. Considering there wasn't really ever any traffic on the road, we were both a bit curious as to what exactly was going on. Little did we know that our timing would bring us to a situation of helplessness and morbid imagery.
As you may have figured out, there was an accident. It just so happens that this accident involved a Ford Focus making a left turn and a helmet-less motorcyclist meeting the side of the Focus.
We pulled around the commotion and saw a body on the ground. People crying, some frantic on cell phones, several hunched over the body or on the ground trying to determine what they could do to help. We figured we had some obligation to make sure we did whatever we could to assist (mainly to make sure 911 had been dialed).
This guy was not dead. His face had taken a harsh beating and he was not moving a muscle. "He is barely breathing," announced one of the people. His head was drenched in blood, profuse bleeding continued through his nose. I will never forget that image- the blood was pulsing out of his nose and onto the gray pavement. The color was like a bucket of bright red paint, lightened by a bit of white- almost as if it were fake. Maybe it was fake? Maybe I was dreaming?
I was helpless. What the hell could I possibly do to help? I questioned the nearby people to make sure 911 had been called. Moments later I heard a siren, which I'd have thought would have happened sooner since we lived about one mile from the fire station.
It was then that I told Andrew we should move on. We had nothing to offer and would only be in the way. So, we did. And I felt guilty.
I was captive to my sympathies. From that moment on, I was trying to figure out if there was anything I could to help this guy. Was he even still alive? Could he pay his rent? Maybe I could help keep him from not having a home when he got out of the hospital? (I automatically assume everyone is broke like me and couldn't cover a day of rent without a job) I didn't even know him, how would I even find out? I had to do something.
I tried to call the nearby hospitals. I got one reply that was very vague, as expected. It seemed that he was in stable condition and that was all they would tell me, understandably.
Not a day went by that I didn't think about that guy. As it so happens, I had to pass this intersection every day to get to my bus. Not like someone in a car who can speed along to their destination. And not like most of the residents, who had no idea the event had occurred- they probably barely noticed the odd patch of crusty blond and dark-colored sand that the fire department used to clean up the scene.
I had to. I had no choice. I tried to play it out in my mind like some kind of detective. How in the hell did that guy manage to find himself in that dire of a situation on a quarter-mile road with clear visibility to the intersection?
And then I saw it. The start to the trail of doom. Narrow black streaks dug deep into the pores of the concrete, starting about four-hundred feet from the collision. He must have been speeding. But how fast could a motorcycle go in such a short notice? More importantly, why?
Answers I would never know. Questions I would never stop asking, as two times a day I had to pass this intersection on foot. Staring at blood-caked sand and broken bits of glass and metal- that over the next couple of weeks would all disappear- leaving a tiny black stain on the ground that would eventually itself blend back into the color of pavement.
About two weeks later, a cross. No name. No message. Just a white cross with a white flower planted on the corner.
My friend, being the internet guru that he is, eventually found the obituary. I had scoured the internet for several days and couldn't find anything. Small town Indiana, eh?
As it turns out, our victim had just gotten his crotch rocket that day, and in a testicular show to his friends, he whipped his bike down that road at the speed of light (about 70 mph), only to find that in the few seconds it took him to see the focus turning left, he did not have enough time to stop. The driver of the Focus must have been making her turn right as he came into view. She didn't have time to get out of the way.
I still feel bad for that guy. But I don't have much respect for crotch rocket operators. They have no idea how easy it is to fuck up their life. And someone else's. I am sure that girl that was driving the Focus will never forget that day and never stop asking herself what she could have done different.
But in all fairness, I don't think she could have done anything.