I must have been around 19 or 20 at the time. So young now looking back. It could have all ended right there and then. I’m glad it did not, of course. I would have missed out on some of the best experiences and meetings of my life. So much would lay ahead of me that I was completely unaware of. Anyway, back to the moment at hand. The moment where I learned that life passing before someone’s eyes is a real thing. I know because I experienced it firsthand.
It started out as any other typical day I believe, as far as I can remember. It’s been quite a while. I was being given a ride to school in Boston. My grandfather had decided to offer me a lift since I might have been running a little late that day. It was a day I would become intimately familiar with a street named Huntington Avenue. I had taken the subway a bunch of times, but truth be told, I didn’t like it. The particular times of my schedule back then meant that I needed to ride it during the busiest times, the rush hours. It was hard to ever get a seat, and when I did I learned that I could not sit in a backwards facing one because it would tend to make me dizzy, get motion sickness, maybe a touch of vertigo. I still suffer from that to this day.
We were travelling down Huntington heading to the Ruggles stop, which is where my school was. However the way that street is set up, they have the trolley in the middle of the road so to cross over to the other side from where we were would require crossing over the train tracks at various gaps along the route.
I could see the Green line trolley in the distance, just what seemed like a little blob against the blue sky. I recall it being a clear spring day, no rain or snow or maybe even cold, although I can’t remember that last point truthfully. At that moment my grandfather decided he didn’t want to wait for the train and figured he could beat it. I’m not sure back then if they had gates that would block traffic from the trains when they passed by, but I don’t think they had those then, although thinking back now how could they not?
He swerved to “bang-a-Uey” as we say in the Boston vernacular and started the cross the tracks. Since he was turning left and I was on the passenger side I had quite the view. I happened to look out the window and there as plain as day was the trolley barreling down at us. At me. What was a moment ago just a green blip was now as large as a house and what seemed only feet from my face. The front of the trolley taking up my entire view. What chance would a little scrawny 130 pound boy, really, have against that behemoth of steel mechanisms and iron wheels. None. The only thing protecting me, if you could call it that, would be the door to my grandfather’s white Chrysler K-Car.
The moment. It seems like it was a lot longer that it was but scientifically it could not have been. As I saw the two headlights of the train coming toward me, and I stared at it like a deer caught by surprise in stunned silence , it happened. What little of my life I had experienced by then literally did flash before my eyes. It’s funny what pops up. Sure there were images of my family, of unscrewing the bars from my younger sister’s crib so she could crawl out over the frustration of my mom trying to keep her in, of trying to stay up on Christmas Eve to catch a glimpse of Santa but my eyes got to heavy and I never made it, of my grandmother teaching me how to skip in her kitchen because for some reason I had a hard time grasping the concept at first. But also some experiences you wouldn’t think of, like me riding my big wheel in the back yard, and eating pizza at the local Papa Gino’s. Maybe that was just me.
My grandfather cleared the tracks as the train honked away, but he kept going, now in the other direction toward the school. The day could now resume as it would normally play out. I’m not sure if I yelled at him for that moment. Probably not, just too stunned or scared or just pleased to be so lucky to able to grab another breath of air. To think of all that might not have been if things played out differently. It made a memory in me that I never forgot, so there’s that.
Actually recalling this story now makes me think of another close call I had when I was even younger, probably around 11 or 12 or so, when me and a buddy who grew up on Murdoch Street would ride our bikes around town. One day we barreled out of a side street and I didn’t see the car that was coming down the road. Somehow or other I lifted my Team Murray bicycle off the air, and literally bounced off the guy’s front bumper. It was a Volkswagen Beetle if I remember, a blue one at that. Must have gave ourselves and the driver a scare of a lifetime. I’m not sure how the hell I didn’t lose my balance or toppled over but I landed on the two bike wheels just fine. I just kept peddling away as fast as I could from the scene. Not really sure how I escaped that one. If there is such a thing as a Guardian angel mine was there that day. And on spring day along Huntington Avenue.
I seldom often pass by that region these days. When LD and I do occasionally pass there, I mention to her the place where my life, as I knew it at that time, almost came to an possible end, thankful that it never came to that.