Whoever says dying doesn't hurt is either lying through their teeth or has never been hit by a car before. All my life I'd been told "oh, it's quick and painless and you'll be in a better place." So obviously I was expecting a nice peaceful death at the ripe ol' age of 80 or so. I never expected my life to end so violently, bloody, and young. At least I made the front page of the paper. That was some consolation. It was a good article that made me seem way nicer and more wholesome than I really was. They listed a whole bunch of activities I was barely involved in and got quotes from people who hated me when I was alive but now that I was dead they were "really gonna miss Sarah. I mean, she was so sweet." I wasn't crazy about the picture they used either. My mom had given them a crappy school picture from last year. It was taken when I still had braces and hadn't discovered the magic of leave-in conditioner and contacts.
My mom took my death especially hard since we had a fight right before I ran out and got hit by a Rolls Royce. It was about the typical teenage stuff. I had a C in geometry. There's something you have to understand about my household to fully take in this fact. We Michelsons simply do not make C's. We do not make B's (not even those of the high persuasion). We make A's. Straight rows of them. And as a member of the Michelson family, I was expected to uphold this unspoken code. But to put it simply: I am no scholar. I do decent in chemistry and speech, totally fabulous in English and world history, and horrible in any form of math. Especially geometry. Neither my mom nor my dad could understand this. "It's shapes, Sarah! Geometry is just shapes!" my dad was fond of sighing in exasperation. They're the hardest shapes I've ever seen. My mind doesn't work that way; all analytical and whatnot. Which is exactly why I made a C.
I tried to explain the whole "my mind is wired different than yours" thing but as a psychologist, she wasn't having any of that. "Everyone is capable of everything," she said with an air of undeserved self importance.
"So, let's say a man in a wheelchair is capable of jumping hurdles? I think not."
"I meant intellectually!" And the argument escalated from there. It ended with a mutual slamming of doors.
The fight didn't make me go out in the street and jump in front of a car or anything; I wasn't going to get suicidal about an argument that occurred everyday. I was practically immune to it.
Nope, my mom had nothing to do with my death although she did blame herself constantly afterwards. The "accident" as friends and family would refer to it in hushed whispers, was actually just an accident. An accident that was totally not my fault, by the way.
I guess the driver was pretty drunk; he had to be to hit me. It was daylight and I, in a small act of defiance, was wearing a Day-glo orange shirt that my mother hated ("Sarah, do you have to wear that awful color? Why not a nice pink or beige?"). There I was, just walking to the bus stop, minding my own business when a Rolls Royce Phantom came flying over the curb. The last thought I had was too confused and contained too many inappropriate four-letter words to record here.
I'd like to be all cliché and say I saw my life flash before my eyes (the polka dotted dress I wore in kindergarten, the horrible navy sweater and matching pants my mom forced me to wear in 3rd grade, how I got made fun of for wearing "boy shoes" penny loafers when I was ten….for some reason all my memories are of clothes) but it didn't happen like that. One minute I was alive and breathing. The next I was sprawled across the road, my blood covering my orange shirt in a poetic macabre way.
I don't know what happened after that, but I got to watch it later and can describe it pretty well.
It's kinda cool to watch your own death, but it's also pretty depressing. By depressing I mean the fact that the Rolls driver sped off, leaving me in the road without telling anyone. It's stuff like that that makes me lose faith in humanity.
Anyway, I guess I would've lain there like some nasty as heck roadkill all day, but some lady came across my dead body and ran over me again. Maybe she thought I was a squirrel or something. My guess is she didn't even see me, didn't even know I was there until she heard the four little bumpbumpbumpbumps of her tires on my body. She got out to see what the damage was and was greeted with the sight of my mangled body.
I'm no beauty queen; I can look pretty good when I want to, but after being run over twice in the span of an hour, I was looking a little destroyed, to say the least.
Call me morbid if you want, but I started laughing a little when I watched that lady scream over my dead body. It was not a regular scream, it was a world class, Guinness Book of World Records, bloodcurdling, glass breaking kind of scream. And she held it for a long time too! I didn't time her or anything, but I'll bet she just stood there screaming for at least a minute. After the screaming, she started crying, which was pretty understandable, seeing as she had just come face to face with a bloody corpse. I had to fell sorry for her at that point. I mean, anyone who happens upon a dead body is going to be pretty traumatized When she was done with tears, she started breathing very heavy. Then, finally she came to her senses, pulled out a cell phone, and told 911 what happened in a trembling voice.
After she hung up with them, she got in her car and just sat there staring out the window, trying to look anywhere but at me. The rest of my death is boring: paramedics came and scraped my remains of the road, pronounced me dead and all that.
The worst part of it was when they told my parents. At first, my mom gave them her "you've got to be kidding me" look. Then after a few minutes, that changed to "PLEASE be kidding me" then to a desperate "I'll pay you ten bucks if you're kidding me" glare. She got all hyperventilate-y like the lady who found me, only watching my mom freak out was one hundred times worse.
My mom actually knew me; she wasn't some stranger who happened upon me by chance. She knew my favorite color was beige, that I didn't like folded chips or vanilla ice cream. She knew that when I was six I told everyone I wanted to be a bird when I grew up and promptly jumped off the roof, breaking four bones. She knew how I sometimes got up at 4am to curl my impossibly straight hair, the color of dark chocolate, my favorite kind of chocolate. She knew every one of the light freckles on my nose, each dimple in my smile. We disagreed, sure, who doesn't? But in the end we always made up. Only this time we would never make up. We would never be able to hug each other and exchange another "I'm sorry."
Worse than seeing my mom cry was the fact I couldn't do anything about it. She was just a picture on a monitor to me.
My dad's reaction was different. When my mom called him at work to break the news, he sucked in a deep breath and hung up without saying a word. Ten minutes later, he arrived home. "Is it…true?" he asked my mom after they had stared at each other in a stunned silence for a few seconds.
Mom bit her lip to try to hold back a sob, then nodded, collapsing into my dad's arms. He didn't cry. He just stood there in the kitchen, holding my mom for what seemed like hours. Finally, she finished crying and tried to wipe the smeared mascara off her cheeks to no avail. She stared up at my dad, waiting for him to have some reaction.
"We should call James and Stephanie," he finally said, just to break the silence. Mom gave a sign of silent agreement.
They called James first, and in true older brother style, he swore a lot. The f word was used quite a bit, but I guess Dad was still too shell shocked to get mad at him. After he got done cussing, he made immediate plans to come home from his college thirty minutes away. He showed no signs of outward emotion; he just wanted to deal with short term things I suppose.
Stephanie was next. She reacted as I thought she would. A contemplative, "oh." Then, a few seconds later, "oh shit."
We weren't close at all, she was twenty years older (my parents are old folks by anyone's standards) and three husbands more experienced than me. Still, despite the fact that I only saw her three, maybe four times, I expected her to be a little more torn up about my death. In fact, both my brother and sister had acted shockingly cavalier about the subject. If I got to be a ghost, I was so haunting those two first.
Their reactions (or lack thereof) sort of made me mad. I mean, your little sister dies and you don't even start crying or anything?
My best friend Kylie's response was much more satisfying. She came over to my house after school to find out why I had missed. My parents broke it to her. She stormed out of the house without saying anything. As soon as she got back to her own house, she began crying and screaming. She even punched a wall which sort of made me excited, since I'd never seen anyone do that in real life before. On a drama scale of one to ten, I decided her performance merited at least an eight.
The best part about my whole death, hands down, was that I topped the 5o'clock news. "Our top story tonight," John Summers, anchorman extraordinaire, intoned solemnly, "the tragic death of a young woman shook up the town today."
I went from average teenager to tragic young woman in less than a day. I had always wanted to be some sort of notable figure and it turns out all I had to do was get hit by a car. Who knew?
It was a good segment. There was a reporter at the scene of the accident. There were lots of "fade to black" shots of the road, cars coming around the curb, as the journalist told how "young Sarah Michelson was hit as she walked to school early this morning." It was over the top drama, which, of course, pleased me to no end.
After my T.V. appearance the calls came flooding in. My mom and dad perfected a tag team routine for this. Whenever my mom got overwhelmed by the condolences, she would let my dad talk for a while until he couldn't take it. The answering machine did the rest.
It would have been even cooler if I was watching this all in live time, but I only got to see the events of my death after the fact. By the time my mom and dad were getting ready for bed on the end of day one of my death, I was somewhere else entirely.
EDITED ON 7/23/10.