He Survived, But I Still Grieve

Ever since the accident, I mourn life before fear

Bethany Marcel
Human Parts
Published in
8 min readJul 18, 2019

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Photo: kaipong/Getty Images

1.

I sat motionless, staring out the window of our condo, waiting for the car to pull up. “Any minute, any minute,” I thought, my phone in hand, my finger hovering above the redial button. Your voicemail — exactly how many times did I hear the start of your outgoing message that night?

The moment it began, I hung up and pressed redial.

2.

It didn’t arrive like a tidal wave. Instead the worry was slow, like the plodding up a steep flight of stairs, the sort of unlikely fear that can be explained away.

And so I did.

I brushed it aside, marking it under the category of things that happen to other people in other houses.

3.

But hours later, it was impossible to think past short phrases.

He’s dead.

He’s fine.

He’s hurt.

He’s fine.

He’s dead.

Like an infinite and terrible loop I would never find my way out of, stuck in that labyrinth of uncertainty and terror.

4.

When the tow truck driver answered your phone, everything went sideways.

I saw the world clearly now, as I hadn’t before. It was vibrating, and ugly, and cruel.

Time didn’t stop, the way they say it does. I sensed, rather, that time had continued but also shifted, coldly, beneath my feet. The universe of time was now a different animal. My body, too, was smaller than just moments before.

I had a suspicion it — my body — was falling, independent from me. I saw the world clearly now, as I hadn’t before. It was vibrating, and ugly, and cruel. I held the phone a distance from my head. And then I screamed.

5.

The tow truck driver said you were sprawled out. The top of you in the back of the car, flung backward from impact. Your feet up near the steering wheel. The seatbelt had always been a little funny, not tightening the way it should. When I…

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Bethany Marcel
Human Parts

Bethany Marcel is a writer whose work has appeared in Literary Hub, Popula, Motherwell, and more. Find her on Twitter @bethmarcel or at www.bethanymarcel.com