Seconds and Inches

Last Saturday night, I was almost hit by a car.

Almost. If you take out that word, the sentence is totally changed. As though it’s just those six letters standing between me and a bloody mess. Just like there were those six inches between me and that big black Chevy.

It was not quite glove weather in Manhattan last Saturday night. I was meeting my brother in Midtown. A block from the Hudson River. Several blocks from my subway stop.

On one of those blocks, I crossed the street west. I was protected by a walk signal. Thinking about a work project for next year. How I had a half-mile to go until my brother’s hotel.

The big black Chevy was turning south. But the driver’s eyes were looking east. His foot dropped hard on the accelerator. The hot Chevy engine lurched toward me. Was six inches away from my sternum. I pitched myself forward. Cried out, “What are you doing!” Made it to the sidewalk. But hardly.

The driver’s eyes turned west toward me. His hands turned the wheel east away from me. He gave a sorry-didn’t-see-you-there wave. And drove on.

I stood on the sidewalk. Breathing fast, thinking fast in the not quite glove weather. I was inches from where a bloody mess almost happened, seconds from when a bloody mess almost happened. Those inches had mattered. Those seconds had mattered.

And for a short time, maybe as long as a walk signal, I appreciated that driver in the big black Chevy. Because now my thinking, my breathing, my existing were squarely in the moment.

And an almost bloody mess ago, I had been living in years and miles. But life happens in seconds and inches.

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