(Should have been posted in 2014)
A friend and I had scheduled over a week ago to go to lunch today. I picked her up at her house. As usual we took her car. I drove. She does have a nicer car than I do. It is also cleaner. She has no little dog to shed on the seats. Dusty and cluttered with so many canvas and recyclable plastic bags used so many times and ready to be used so many times more.
We went to lunch. I had a desire for Indian food. So, that is what we did. Agreed on a good Indian restaurant. Better, it was an all you can eat buffet. I figure with as much Palak Paneer as I ate I will be shitting easily for days. We always enjoy each others companionship and experiences. We talk about our children and her grand children, of friends now and past.
She needed some things from a store that carries some items that are found in no other. A special brand of orange marmalade, and some PG Tips tea, and special Digestives. She was born and raised in Great Brittain, married an Israeli, lived in Israel, and moved to America 50 years ago. She has remarkable memories. We talk easily and openly. I am glad she is my friend. Moreover, I am lucky to be included in her circles of friends.
While at lunch I confided that it has gotten increasingly difficult to even open a jug of milk. She suggested we look for a certain tool she thought she had seen at the store she was getting her special items from. So, we looked. Nothing. Not that I was too surprised. I imagined we might be able to find something at the specialty kitchen store. That is where we went next. As we approached it I realized she was a bit tired. There were two bright red chairs and matching table just outside the store. We sat and talked regrouping from an incredibly filling lunch and long wander through the first store.
As we were sitting there a young woman got into a van and tried to pull out of the parallel parking space. She backed up turning her tires to move the vehicle out of the spot. She realized there was not quite enough room. Something we have all done hundreds of time. The vehicle was backed up again with the front tires not turned outward. She slowly managed the vehicle out of the spot. CRUNCH. Her right front bumper crumbled. It was clear the driver became flustered. Instead of continuing out of the space or realigning the vehicle she pulled back into the space just as she went out. The sounds of plastic and metal like a stiff wad of aluminum foil being compressed in your hands before throwing it into the recycle pile.
She sat in her car for a few moments in which I wondered whether she would try to drive away without leaving her info on the car she rubbed up hard against. There were a couple of white haired men sitting directly in line of sight of the rear bumper and front bumper of the two vehicles.
The young woman got out of her car after a few moments. I imagine had it been me I would have had so much adrenaline running through me I would be shaking and upbraiding myself for making such a tactical error. Our eyes were all affixed to the damage. Then, a very pretty young woman gets out of the driver side of the white offending vehicle. It is funny, it only just occurred to me that the young woman’s vehicle was white and the other was black.
You would think the reverse would be more likely (putting aside the historical racial meaning of black vs. white. Which, I was not at all aware of until, I was an old adult. It is a reference to good and bad that is deeply ingrained in society. I am not sure how else to put this metaphor. Orange Blossoms vs. Purple Lavender just does not make the same ingrained impact on the public conscience.) It is not as if the vehicle that got hit had any culpability whatsoever. Ultimately, you may see that the metaphor actually fits.
The young woman got out of her car. She came around the back of her vehicle approached her own front bumper. She surveyed the damage. The entire right front quarter panel of her white vehicle was fully crumpled inward nearly onto the right front tire. It appeared to me that as soon as she saw the damage to her own vehicle it overwhelmed her. She took a step back. Looked at it from a distance. Shaking her head. Stepped forward to see it a little closer, moved her head to one side to take another angle on the view. Stepped back. Walked to the back door of her vehicle and bashed her forhead against the rear right door window. Hard. Then, she did it again. Looking a bit dazed (who wouldn’t be) she got into the right passenger seat. She closed the door. All the windows of her vehicle were darkly tinted.
It was hard to see her. I became very concerned the first time she banged her head on the rear window. Only more so the second. Then, through the glass darkly I see her long wavy hair flying in a manner that frightened me. It was clear to me she was banging her head on the dashboard. I told my friend, “I have to do something. I need to get her out of there.” How did I know she needed more help? Why didn’t the men and woman who were closer to her do nothing. Nothing at all. I think they were so shocked that it essentially froze the. Even my friend did not know how to react. How then, did I know?
I went to her door, opened it, and asked her to please get out. I told her, “I cannot let you hurt yourself.” She insisted I let her. I gently took hold of her hand. I asked her to look at me which, when emotionally strained is very difficult, so my asking her to “Breath. Slow your breathing. Pay attention to your breath. S-l-o-w breath i-n and Come on you have to let that last one out.” She did in a rush and just as quickly gasp, her next sob inward. After a couple of minutes her breathing came a little more under her control. I gently took hold of her right arm and asked her to get out of the car and come with me. Like an infant who has cried itself exhausted, she limply came with me. Her entire body was vibrating with anger and anxiety. I put her in the red chair I was sitting in a moment ago. She had the longest eyelashes I may have ever seen. Natural. She was crying so, hard her mascara and eye liner were being turned into nearly matching dark rivers running down on her cheeks.
The full-body-vibrating continued. Her breathing and sobbing were ramping up again. She was calling herself the most horrible person on the planet and wished she were dead. She was clearly expressing such total and complete self-hatered it was painfully sad to hear. I had to help. What else could I do? If I had let her alone it was even more clear to me now that she was very self-destructive. While walking her the short distance from her vehicle to the red chair I noticed her arm. There, on her upper and lower arm, were long horizontal scars on the outside like the strands of a fashionable t-shirt whose fabric had been purposely sliced many times with a sharp razor horiztonally to allow strands of fabric to fall separately while, still fully attached at either side to to the t-shirt. Only her arms were not fabric. Yet, the blade edge that sliced her arm each time had been equally effective. The strands of thick banded scars she will wear forever.
I observed or felt or just knew she was in deep emotional trouble. After seating her I talked to her. Countering her self-excoriations I try to help her realize she made a simple misjudgement. “We have all done this at one time or another.” She had such deep saddened eyes. It was not terror. It was shame and unbearable saddness. She countered every one of my balancing messages with how terrible she was and shouldn’t be alive. I persisted. I did the breathing excercise with her. This was tragically painful to hear such a beautiful young woman in her late teens speak that way of herself. Still vibrating and gasping for breath I try calm her. I look down and realize she is scratching one hand with the sharp long nails of the other. An instant later and I took her hand in mine. She only resisted a little. Without a blade nearby to cut she was using her own body against itself. I held her hand tight and continued to let her talk. I realized she had to have a therapist.
I have been through something similar to this before. Not with a stranger. I am no stranger to myself. Though, I am not a cutter. I fully understand the depth of wanting to escape the pain. I understood her. I asked her if she had a therapist. She confirmed she had. I asked her if she could call her therapist. She said she could. I had to move this along in steps. Too much for this already overwhelmed terrified child and I would push too far. I asked her if she would please call her therapist. It was either that or I call 9-1-1. She chose to call her therapist.
She had called her parents to tell them. She was TERRIFIED to call her parents. But, they were going to have to know. It was their car she was driving. Someone was going to have to pick her up.
I could hear her mother S-C-R-E-A-M-I-N-G at this girl. No hesitation, no “How are you?” No, calmness at all. Just a continuous harranging from her mother while this girl is clearly sobbing, and upset and with the knowledge of how fragile her daughter is not a care. I really began to understand why the girl was so afraid to call her folks. The girl remained on the phone throughout her mother’s entire onslaught. No amount or intensity or depth of apologies was going to calm this woman down even one little bit.
While my friend and I waited with her for her parents to come get her she reacted in horror and humiliation. When her parents arrived her mother was yelling at her before she ever got out of the car. Dad got into the public shaming, as well. Neither of them cared about the girl. The car – yes. The girl – NO!
We watched this for a minute or so. I felt horrible for this girl. I tried to ask either parent if they could see how upset the girl was and if they could find just a moment to give her a hug. I had hoped to change the character of the conflict.
HA! Was I wrong. Dad turned on me and started to yell at me. He said, I did not know what had gone on and what a problem this girl was and the car she previously borrowed “last week!??” she had an accident in. I replied that while that may be true it did not change the fact that THEY agreed to let her borrow the car today and she was terribly upset and one moment for a hug would be a really nice thing for his DAUGHTER. NOPE.
All my friend and I could do at that point was to give the girl a hug and leave. We both hated leaving the girl with these two WOLVES posing as parents. There was no choice. There was also, no way to follow up with the girl.
I am glad the girl spoke to her therapist before calling in the BEASTS in parent clothing. Maybe she will help the girl find a way to care for herself. Because, it was clear nobody else would.
One more thing: If the (cough, wheeze, sputter) parents were upset about the borrowed car accident the week before then, WHY did they lend her the car THIS week?!?!?!