Almost Doesn't Count...
The friendly neighborhood Ocean State Job Lot is close to my place of gainful employ, so I occasionally frequent the place to pick up unnecessary crap and whittle away a lunch hour. It was such the other night. I picked up some severely discounted Pria bars (50 cents! Hell yeah!) and was on my way, propelling Gustav the BeetleBugCar out of the shopping center and back toward the highway.
They were in front of me almost immediately, before I had gotten out of second gear, before I was facing the right way in the lane. Kids, children, four or five or six, I'm not really sure. Soft skin and bone and flesh wrapped around sharp metal bicycles. And as my foot mashed the brake with every ounce of pressure available to it, and my hands tore the steering wheel desperately to the side, everything became blurred and agonizingly slow, like a dream sequence. I looked into the eyes of one of the children, soft and brown like a seal's. They slipped across like molasses, not one of them over the age of 8, not one of them wearing a helmet.
At some point, my car finally stopped; touching nothing but air, facing the complete wrong direction, in need of being restarted. I gasped like a fish, flipped the ignition, turned the car back in the correct direction, and went back to work.
I had a lot of time to think about the whole incident. Had I not looked closely enough? I had looked both ways, left and right and left again, as I always do. But were my eyes trained to look for cars? Had I just not noticed? Or were they just not there before? Kids can dart out so quickly...
It didn't really matter to me either way. The only thing that mattered was that even though I hadn't crushed any of them under my miniscule car, I could have. I could have done so and spent the rest of my life with my head in my hands wondering what could I have done differently? I could have spent an eternity in my own purgatory, battling embittered parents and grieving siblings and my own demons.
But I didn't, so now I don't have to. But for a bit there, I kind of did, just the same.