It was a wet, dreary, and “chilly enough for a sweater, but not quite cold enough for a winter coat” day in Columbus, Ohio. I was 20 years old at the time and had just returned home from Miami, Florida. We jumped in my mother’s rusty, old, 1977 sky-blue, Ford Granada. I remember it taking a bit of strength to open the long, heavy car doors as they were made out of 100% steel and creaked from the rust when you opened them.
We headed to Schottenstein’s to buy Natasha (my daughter) a present for her 2nd birthday; it was October 7, 1987. My mother drove and I sat in the passenger seat. Natasha was strapped in a seatbelt directly behind the drivers seat. Mom didn’t believe in wearing seat belts. She said she was afraid of being trapped in hers should she ever get in a car accident. I would’ve worn mine, but it wouldn’t fasten closed and was broken, much like the rear passenger door that wouldn’t open, the brakes that were barely functioning, and various other issues my mother couldn’t afford to fix.
My mother and I argued about going to Schottenstein’s because I hated it. It was always a mess. Nothing was organized; clothes were always thrown on top of racks, falling off of hangers, lying in messy piles, and strewn about the “not so clean” floors or “stained” carpeted areas of the store. The dressing rooms always smelled like “eau de ass and feet”, and the women shopping about reminded me of aliens on a “gotta save 50 cents or else I’ll be obliterated from existence” mission – losing all respect for their fellow shoppers and throwing all politeness out the window, they scurried about relentlessly searching for the so-called perfect deal.
Babies with snotty noses, and dirty diapers that were desperately in need of changing were crying and screaming in their strollers, tossing their bottles on the floor in an attempt to awaken their female guardians from their “gotta save 50 cents or else” trance, for attention. Toddlers zipped in and out of clothing racks and dressing rooms, pulling more clothes to the ground, and stepping on the ones that were already there, leaving dirty foot prints to add to the poor quality of the irregular assortment of discount rags.
I agreed to go as long as she agreed to make it quick.
We headed towards the highway and merged into traffic. It began to rain again. All I could think about was the dreaded shopping experience I was about to endure. Then all of the sudden our car began swerving all over the road. My mother screamed, “Oh my God, Angela, there’s something wrong with the car”. I reached over from the passenger seat and grabbed the steering wheel in an effort to help her regain control but it was pointless.
The steering wheel felt like it was a spinning disc with nothing attached to it. We began to slide into the median and time must have stopped because I remember it as if I was watching a movie in slow motion. I remember hearing the loud, deep tone of the 18-wheeler’s horn. I knew that sound. When I was a child we would quickly pounce into the back seat of the car whenever we spotted what we called a “semi” or 18 wheeler and make a motion with our hands as if we were pulling a rope down from the ceiling to get the truck drivers to sound their horns. I remember thinking about that childhood memory and then saying “Oh Shit” and hearing the 18-wheeler’s horn blow twice.
I smelled something strange and strong. The smell was so strong it was annoying. Almost like a slap in the face. “Smack” it hit me once, then “Smack” it hit me again. I struggled to awaken out of the deep sleep that held me hostage. One more blow from the smell and I awakened to make it stop.
I looked around confused and dazed trying to make sense of it all. I saw blurry faces and heard voices and faint sirens. Everything blended together. “Where was I?” “What happened?” “Why were all these people hovering over me?”