I Killed A Man and I Want to Die
Published: Thursday, November 17, 2011
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
I dream about blood.
Its bitter, coppery taste fills my mouth.
I see it, dark and oily, pooling around the broken body on the asphalt.
I wake up screaming – hands outstretched, like Lady MacBeth looking for blood on my hands, wrists, sheets.
My days are no better. At the sound of squealing tires, my left hand flies to shield my eyes while my right one clenches. I can no longer sit in a car longer than 30 minutes without medication.
Exactly three years ago today, I killed a pedestrian on the Long Island Expressway. The accident wasn't my fault.
The detective in charge of the case looked me in the eyes and told me so.
Yet, still, I am haunted.
He died because my car ran him over.
Countless conversations with priests and counselors will never change that. Sometimes, it is hard to go on knowing what I did.
And yet I do.
Living honorably is my way of paying tribute.
And yet, so often I feel as if I am perpetrating a fraud when I try and do something kind. It's as if I have become so tainted by the accident that I can never be good again. Sometimes, I think it would have been easier if I had died, too.
Each day, I wake up wondering which 113 Americans will die in traffic accidents. Will it be the little girl in pigtails who's not wearing a bike helmet? Will it be some of my UB classmates, who drink too much and drive too fast and think they are invincible? Or will it be the father of four who talks on his phone as he steps off the curb?
One hundred and thirteen people. Those are the statistics, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That's 42,000 a year. Another 350,000 Americans are injured yearly.
I wish those numbers were abstract for me. But ever since a little after noon on that sunny November day three years ago, when I was heading home from my job as an editorial aide at a public relations office, steadily doing 55 mph on the Long Island Expressway in my tan Nissan Sentra, and thinking how happy I was to have my boyfriend down from Buffalo, those numbers are indelibly inked on my psyche.
So are my memories of the psychiatric ward, where the ambulance brought me after the accident. It's a place where chairs are bolted to the ground, men walk around in nothing but diapers, and the smell of antiseptic pervades. I didn't belong there, but yet, I didn't belong outside either.
My boyfriend, his parents, and a large dose of medication saved me.
The sedative blurred the pain. My boyfriend got me out, took me home, wrapped me in my pink, flannel squirrel pajamas, and kept me safe from phone calls, news articles, and TV coverage of the accident. He also saved me from myself.
I wandered around the house like a living ghost, with a bottle of sedatives in my bathrobe pocket. Often, I prayed I would fall asleep and not wake up.
Yet even my dreams couldn't shield me. I kept re-experiencing the accident.
It's always the same. The sky is bright, the cars are few. It is a little past noon and I am almost home. I am excited to have my boyfriend back on Long Island, and even more excited to have the house to myself.
I move into the right-hand lane because my exit is coming up. A silver car has barely pulled over onto the shoulder of the road. I pass the car and feel a little "thump." No big deal, nothing major, I think, perhaps the sideview mirror.
I pull over, fish my cell phone out of my purse and start to call 9-1-1. I look out my windshield and notice that the passenger side of my hood looks like a crushed paper fan.
I get out of the car, hold the phone and walk toward the other car. Then I see it.
"Oh my God, I hit…There's a man…Please…Oh my God…NOOOOO!"
Asif Ali, 30, was pronounced dead at 1:21 p.m. at Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center. But he really died on the asphalt. I know. I was standing there when the EMT said it.