The doctor’s appointment went well, or as well as could be expected. The Complete and Total Loser drove his mother to it and listened as her eye doctor talked about how if the corneal transplant she had six weeks ago doesn’t do better he may need to sew her eye shut for some weeks, a cosmetic nightmare even for an 80-year-old woman, but worse things can happen to eyes.
The doctor overbooks and it was over an hour before the Loser and his mother spent ten minutes with him and then left. The Loser’s father, recently returned from the hospital after a two-week stay, is not yet up to driving again. He’s 90 now and he may never drive again.
They headed for home, the Loser and his mom, deeper into the suburbs west of the Loser’s mean city, where people live in mansions and ride horses, some of them. Traffic was bad, as always at 5:15 on a weekday, suburban dwellers returning to their quiet, dark streets, shoppers picking up something for the night’s meal, students after a long day which included after school sports. The Loser was stuck at a green light, cars blocked while turns were being made on too small streets by fatigued drivers.
The hit from behind came fast, of course, and jarred the Loser and company. His first reaction: No. That didn’t happen. Not to me. Then: Yes it did. Fuck. But it doesn’t seem too bad.
“Oh my!” his mother exclaimed.
“Are you all right?” the Loser asked. Later, he’ll congratulate himself for asking this, spontaneously. Maybe he’s not such a bad guy after all!
He pulled into—what else?—a cricket club’s parking lot. The offending car followed. The Loser said to his mother, “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it,” and exited the Toyota Camry. Approaching the car, he thinks briefly of the danger of such situations as this. Who would exit the four-door Hyundai? A hulking drunken brute, defensive, armed? A kindly old man with a beard and long stories? A sneering teenager on amphetamines?
The driver was a woman, college age, nice looking. Rattled.
“I’m so sorry!” she said. “I didn’t see you!”
She had nothing other than apologies and her hands shook as she offered the sheaf of papers containing insurance information.
“I probably shouldn’t have been driving,” she said. “I just got back from an international flight and I’m still pretty jangled from it.” She, Lisa, said she’d been living in the Middle East teaching English as she took a year off from the state’s university.
Of the two cars, hers was damaged worse. When she tried to open the passenger side door, it stayed shut. A front light was out and the hood looked significantly crumpled. Surprisingly, her airbag had not deployed. The Loser’s car seemed to have no more than a bashed rear bumper.
The Loser copied carefully Lisa’s insurance information and her father’s telephone number, and gave her his and his parents’ names and phone numbers. He was on his way within ten minutes. Lisa remained in the parking lot, calling someone and, probably, gathering her wits. Later that evening, he filed a claim with her insurance company (State Farm) and spoke with her mother, who said that Lisa had been shaken up a little but was otherwise all right. The Loser mentioned to her mother the lack of deployment of her air bag and the mother said she’d look into it when she got the car repaired.