Thursday, May 21, 2009

Two posts in one day, good heavens! Still, I feel compelled to state the following:

Today, I knocked an air conditioner out of the window of my third floor apartment, onto the pavement below.

It's amazing I even own such a thing. For years I wouldn't, because I was terrified I would knock it out of the window of my third floor apartment (many floors, many years, many apartments ago). But there it is. I do, and then I did.

I'm a little sleep deprived. I wasn't paying attention. Sitting here at my computer, I can see it fall, as though in a movie: end over end, the cord describing the tumble in waves. Though (as I write this) I understand that in fact time did NOT slow down. Time actually at that moment was very, very quick. Out went the air conditioner. I screamed, "SHIT!" at the top of my lungs. It hit the empty sidewalk and bounced into the empty street.

No: what makes it slow is that my brain began to replay the event the second I thrust my head out the window to look at that incredibly empty sidewalk, that mercifully empty street. By the time I ran in to the other room to look at the sleeping baby, I had seen it three or four more times, then again as I ran down the stairs, and picked up the air conditioner, and lugged it up the porch. The replay stopped as I looked down and saw, as though in a Twilight Zone episode, blood on the case. So I hadn't hit a human being--what then, a gnome? an invisible person? Then I saw it was my own human blood. Somehow I'd cut my fingers. By now, late afternoon, I have watched the mental replay 10,000 more often than the real-time events, and so I want to say: it was just as they say. Time slowed to a crawl.

No. Not time. Memory, again, insisting that it's the genuine article.

I was really shaken for a while, telling myself, You could have killed someone, you could have killed someone. And then, just when I was no longer seeing the innocent bystander (seen from above, from either my point-of-view or the air conditioner's), someone else slid into view. A woman, pushing a baby carriage. They come down this street. I come down this street myself, pushing a baby carriage.

You could have killed a BABY, is what my brain keeps saying now.

Matilda and I took a walk to shake it off. (She slept through the whole thing.) We went to the Cambridge DPW to pick up the sticker that will allow us to throw away the air conditioner next week. Everywhere we went, I saw people who I could have killed with my air conditioner. I saw smashed things--a car's front end, a lady's arm in a cast--and felt culpable. I saw a police car and wanted to cross the street.

And I kept on thinking, You could have killed a BABY.


susanstinson said...

That is really, really scary! No wonder your mind is caught on it -- such an awful accident. It's one of my fears, too. Hope your hand isn't cut too badly, and glad that the sidewalk and street were empty.

Sarah said...

I, too, would have freaked! Very scary.

Gail Arthurs said...

I read this blog almost a week ago. And thought about it a lot. Reread my favorite bits of Replica, and let the fragments of Replica and this blog soak for a few days. Reread this blog, and I then I knew. You, Elizabeth, could NEVER EVER KILL A BABY.

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