Believing is Seeing
by Jan Baughman

I was an eyewitness; could have just as easily or just as randomly been a victim but for that split-second in which I hesitated because the car was approaching at a dangerously fast speed. I waited until it passed, then entered the road as a cloud of white smoke from the urgency of brakes obscured the drama that unfolded in front of my eyes. The three cars spun then regained consciousness and pulled off to a side road, single file. One by-driver slowed then continued on; I hesitated and edged through the glass, following the three players off stage. I ran to each to make sure they were okay and to see if anyone had a phone. They, like me, were cellphobes so I left the scene to call 911. I found that I could not name the cross street, nor the relative location of the accident compared to the major intersection. I could identify the colors of the cars -- one red and two black -- but not the make or model.

I returned to my accident and waved down the Highway Patrolman who was obviously struggling with my vague directions. He told me I was a good girl to have stayed, then stammered with the fear of having been politically incorrect. He suggested I get in the car. "The front or the back?", I asked. "You don't seem like the type to have ever been in the back seat of a police car!" (this is good information to have).

I gave my vague statement, which was rather limited to the excessive speed of Car One who slammed on the brakes but not in time to avoid hitting the Red Car. I could not account for Car Three's involvement. And yet I had seen the whole thing unfold before my very eyes.

That night, another officer phoned to take my statement. This time, Car Three had a role and I visualized Car One cutting in front of Car Three to try to avoid the Red Car. The officer referred to the "two friends who were racing" and it all made sense. I now remember it that way and can picture the two cars recklessly racing each other and crashing into the back of the Red Car. The more time that passes, the clearer it becomes. When and if I am called to testify, my recollection should be perfect.

In the meantime, I'm a bit uncomfortable with the concept of reality. I wonder how much of my memory is a construct of my fantasies, or the stories I've heard from those who witnessed me before I was old enough to remember... As for history, it's been passed down so many times now that I'm sure it is far from accurate; the chance of an expert witness being present when something actually happens is remote. No doubt, this world must just be a figment of our collective imaginations.

Published April 26, 1997
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