Thursday, August 27, 2009

Regina's Shoes

Gig drove like a madwoman. She was always running late and always speeding behind the wheel. Every other driver on the road was an inconvenience in her path, long before the term "road rage" had been coined. She would be incensed if another car cut her off. "Don't get in front of me and then drive slow!" she'd bellow. Without the choice of secular swear words, she would instead yell entire sentences and DOT laws out the car window. "In the state of Florida you can turn right on red unless otherwise marked!" We grandkids thought this quality entertainment.

One day when I was 10 or 11, Gig's manuscript needed to be sent out within a few hours to meet the publisher's deadline. Running to the last minute as ever, we scrambled into the car. We were about halfway to the copy shop when we hit bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic. So what did my Giggy do? She drove in the breakdown lane for over two miles and pulled into the Office Depot parking lot. We had been stuck behind a paper company semi before the off-roading-in-a-compact adventure. Half an hour later, with her freshly bound manuscript in hand, we were re-entering traffic. She pulled in just in front of that same semi.

Another time when I was maybe six years old we were on our way to pick my sister up from ballet practice when the old station wagon blew a tire on the interstate. Rather than pulling over and dealing with the implications and inconvenience, she kept driving, picked my sister up, and made the return trip home, driving on the wheel rim. Once the car was back in the driveway, Gig happily dumped the problem in my mother's lap and set about making dinner.

The worst of all these must have happened just a few months later. My older sister stayed home while my grandmother and I headed out to pick up my brother from soccer practice. It was dusk and she was flying down a residential street near my brother's school when Gig hit a pedestrian. The woman's name was Regina, I learned that night. She was blind and deaf and had wandered out the front door of her sister's house, wearing dark clothes. She died instantly from the impact.

I was sitting in the front seat when she flew onto the hood of the car, and her head smashed into the windshield, leaving a circular crack in the glass. We were too poor to get the window replaced, and I refused to ride in the front seat for the rest of the time we owned that car. Someone called the police and they came to investigate the scene of the accident. I was a bit overwhelmed by it all, and while Gig was talking to the officers I walked behind the car to get away from the sight of the dead woman's body. That's when I found Regina's feet - bloody lumps of meat, still wearing brown leather sandals. I don't remember what Regina's face looked like but I have never forgotten her feet. I don't know how fast Gig was driving - fast enough to tear a woman's legs out from her ankles and leave them twenty feet behind the car before slamming on the brakes. I still have a hard time seeing abandoned shoes on the side of the road.

At the time, no one thought I needed any therapy or help dealing with shock. It happened. Nothing we can do. Move on.