I sat in the ER waiting room feeling like I’d gotten hit by a truck, because I actually HAD gotten hit by a truck, or at least my Prius had. Just a few hours before, after I’d exchanged information with the other driver, I laid my forehead on the steering wheel and sobbed while a concerned passerby brought me a bottled water and a wad of paper towels.
I didn’t call 911 because, despite having health insurance and the other guy having auto insurance, I was afraid of wracking up medical bills. So I called my friend Laurie and asked her to meet me and follow me to the ER.
My neck had stiffened from the jolt of the crash and my entire body ached. I couldn’t stop thinking: maybe it would have been better if the truck had rammed my car into the street light. It’s not that I wanted to die, but it would have been a good way to stop running up legal fees. It would have put an end to yet another custody battle, to six more years of “co-parenting” with a terrorist, to the utter waste of my time and energy sapped by a profoundly narcissistic ex.
It was in this beleaguered spirit that I sat, slouched in the chair of the examining room, while the male nurse took my blood pressure and defused my despair with the upbeat chatter of a motivational coach, which, it turns out, he was. He also trained bodyguards and rescued people from cults.
“I don’t need to do this,” he said, gesturing to the moans emanating from the hallway. “But I know how to calm people down.”
He told me his mother had left him in a dumpster when he was ten days old, that he’d bounced around in foster homes until finally being adopted by a white family.
“But I’ve worked through it,” he said. “I have no anger towards the woman who did that to me. That’s changed my life.”
He gave me a long look, a peering-into-your-soul kind of look, a look that only people who have transcended unspeakableness seem to have.
“I don’t know you,” he said. “I don’t know anything about you, but you need to make yourself the priority.”
I gave him a quizzical look.
“If you don’t make yourself the priority, how are other people going to treat you?”
I wanted to tell him I’d been trying to make myself the priority for the past ten years, but I’d had kids and an ex-husband intent on making me feel like something on the bottom of his shoe. I wasn’t sure how to make myself the priority, exactly, which he must have realized when he asked me another question.
“Do you have a lawyer?”
“You mean a personal injury attorney?”
“Yeah. You need a lawyer.”
“Oh…I don’t know. I’m not that hurt…and the car’s not in that bad shape.”
“Well,” he said, “maybe you need some physical therapy. Sometimes it takes a few days before you start hurting.”
He handed me the business card of his attorney, the one who had gotten him a settlement that tricked out the van he used for his mobile personal training business.
“Call her, and tell her than James sent you.”
I did. She saw me immediately and agreed to take my case even though it wasn’t a big one. I sat in front of her enormous wood-paneled desk as she gestured to the skyine outside the window.
“I’ve been doing this for 30 years, I have my $15 million dollar mansion, I don’t need to do this anymore. But I do it because I love it.”
As I was filling out paperwork, she called her body shop and physical therapist and told them to see me right away.
“From now on, don’t talk to anyone about this case. I’ll handle everything.”
I’ll handle everything. Never had three words meant so much. It was as if I’d just removed the 100-pound weight on my shoulder and handed it over to someone else to deal with. And without paying — she would only get paid if I got a settlement.
This was two weeks ago. My neck — chronically knotted — has never felt so good, thanks to free massages three times a week. My rental car smells like a bad hotel, but I should be back in my dent-free Prius in a few days.
Getting hit by a car didn’t solve my divorce problem. But it put me in the path of people who lightened my load, and made me feel that I was the priority.