Today is the 21st of May, 2012. It might be an ordinary day for most people today. It’s my day off so of course I have a lot of little things to do. On the surface looks like a regular day. But 20 years ago today I stood at a crossroads and my life changed forever.
It was on this day 20 years ago that Prajna and I left in separate cars to go to the dress rehearsal for a play we were doing. We had been dating for about 6 months. I had been a lonely and miserable wretch before meeting her. But now friends noted how I looked and acted better after starting a relationship. I still didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I had a useless college degree and was having fun working graveyard shift at a radio station. But I was 25 and aware that there would be decades to come where I really ought to be doing something significant with my life. I had just quit smoking cigarettes and still had the image of myself as a loner who sat off and wrote dark poetry. With Prajna in my life, I had an idea of sharing my life with someone. But not being alone anymore didn’t seem right still.
Late that Thursday afternoon on May 21st, Prajna left in her Toyota Tercell a few minutes before me for the drive from Haiku to Kahului. A mile or so from home I approached Maliko Gulch where the Hana Highway dipped down and through. The driver of an oncoming car was waving for traffic to slow down. When I got around the corner there were cars stopped and I saw that there was an accident. Then I saw Prajna’s car up against the guardrail. I inched forward with traffic around another car facing the same way with the hood crumpled and the smell of hot engine coolant in the air. As I passed Prajna’s car I saw her. We made eye contact and she cried out to me.
As clear as I remember this whole afternoon, I have no memory of parking my car or going to her. The next thing I remember was that I was at her side. I took a tissue from a woman and held it to Prajna’s head where her sunglasses had broken and cut her. Her Toyota had been struck at the front driver’s side corner and was totaled. The windshield was smashed and the front wheel was bent down. The car seemed to have been struck hard. Behind her car the facing the same way was the heavy European sedan that had struck her. Prajna told me that it had crossed the center line and hit her. She also told me her leg was broken. I stayed kneeling by her side and heard sirens.
Soon there were emergency vehicles everywhere. Firemen had no trouble pulling the car door open. Getting Prajna out of her car and onto a gurney was difficult and painful. I followed the ambulance to the hospital running red lights right along with it. When I got to the emergency room I knew I needed to get in and see her. Girlfriend wouldn’t sound good enough. I strode through the open doors that only authorized personnel could pass and for some reason I announced that Prajna was my fiancé. This held weight with the staff. Even though I was ushered out of the room they seemed concerned for me too. I called Prajna’s home and talked to her brother. I explained that she was banged up but would be okay. Prajna’s mom and brother got there soon after.
We began a long wait as doctors came and updated us. Yes, her left femur was broken and they had to put pins in it to fix the position. They couldn’t use a general anesthetic but would give her enough meds to dull some pain and make her forget the rest. Friends came to check on us. Late in the evening a doctor came out and told us there might be a problem. They were afraid there could be bone fragments in Prajna’s blood. That could be fatal. I got a cigarette from a friend and went outside.
Here is where I felt the crossroads underneath me. If Prajna died, I could be the dark brooding loner forever. Was that what I wanted? People would point to me in awe at the tragic coolness. Then down the other way was me giving up that desire to be alone and sharing my life with someone. I remembered how miserable I had been over the past few years. And I decided it didn’t matter. I didn’t want a tragedy in my life even if it enhanced my writing and no matter how cool it made me. I wanted Prajna to live. I wanted to walk away from that dark loner and live my life with her. I prayed that outside the E.R.
Prajna was never in any danger. The doctors had been taken aback by Prajna’s irrational talking, asking them if they wanted cream cheese on their bagel. I don’t think that God wanted me to pray that night for Prajna to live as much as for me to live. And I did. We both did.
|Prajna and her car about a month after the accident|
|this was my idea of what I would have been like without Prajna|
|This is most likely how I really would have ended up|