“all peoples in all cultures have both prejudice and fear; the forms they take are determined by the historical accidents that have shaped the culture and the way the culture impinges upon the individuals who participate in it.”
Despite my relative lack of knowledge I have a general understanding of what the scene of a car accident looks like: broken glass, dented plastic, deflated airbags, and sometimes, skid-marks. It’s those accidents without skid-marks that are the scary ones. It means that the accident happened before anyone realized that it was happening. One might imagine in slow motion a foot rising off the pedal on the right side of the floorboard. The knee contracts slightly, the body shifts naturally to the left, almost imperceptibly. Then the foot begins its slow descent to the pedal a few inches to the left of the first. This all happens in the time that it takes a hummingbird to beat its wings once. Maybe twice. And it’s too late. Worlds shift before the foot has time to come down again. The accident has happened, and instead of two or three feet of skid-marks, there is a thin trail of blood stretching from the vehicle. Eventually the ambulance comes. Then the wrecker. With time, the only sign of the accident exists in memory. A haunting, of sorts, shared by a few witnesses who hold little or no connection to each other, other than this event. This place.
We were somewhere outside of Greenville, Mississippi when we came across the accident, a group of us from Louisiana State University. Three, maybe four of us left the van and ran to the site where everything had fallen apart. I remember the horrible things that I saw that day. They play around in my memory. They haunt me and return at moments that I least expect it: while I’m teaching, walking through a park, sitting on my porch. Not often, but unexpectedly the images will sneak up on me. Those really bad accidents, the mistakes, the fuck-ups. They never really leave us, do they? They sit with us longer than we think we can stand it. But we usually find a way to stand it, don’t we? Usually.
Photo Credit: Rodney Burton