The night was foggy, and still. I was sitting out on my deck in my pajamas, having a smoke before sitting down at the computer to blog. I had just arrived home from work about 20 minutes earlier; I glanced at the clock - it was 2:15 a.m.
Then the quiet was pierced by a squeal of tires, and a huge, thudding crash. The dogs, out on the deck with me, broke out in three-part alarm barking. I jumped up, grabbed the flashlight, put the dogs in the house and snatched up my phone, and ran as fast as I could in my slippers out to our road.
I had seen headlights, but now the night was dark again. At the base of Cedar Lane, as I turned onto River Road, I called out: "Anybody there?" I heard the crack of stumbling footsteps, and swung my flashlight beam over to the side, just in time to catch a body falling forward out of the dense undergrowth and trees.
A young man staggered towards me. He said, "I had an accident." I turned my light towards the car, which I could now see buried deep in the culvert, air bags deployed, front windshield cracked.
His name was Jordan. He was confused and disoriented. I checked him over quickly: bloodied lips, abrasions on his arms, and a discolored dent on his forehead, but no other signs of injury. My primary concern was concussion. I tried to get him to sit down, and pulled out my phone to call local police. The dispatcher said an ambulance was on its way.
We waited. Jordan moaned periodically, and started to cry. He kept repeating that his head hurt. I could smell alcohol on his breath, but said nothing - I was afraid he might be aware enough to realize he was soon going to be in a lot of trouble, decide to take off on foot into the night, and end up unconscious somewhere in the vineyards with a head injury.
He pulled an iPhone out of his pocket and punched in a number. I said, "Jordan, you know it's really late, don't you?" He said he was calling his parents; he lived with them in Santa Rosa. I listened as Jordan work his mom and dad up, telling them the bad news. A minute into the conversation, he began crying and handed me the phone, saying, "Can you talk to him?" I told his dad that an ambulance was on the way, that he wasn't injured badly, and that I would call again once emergency personnel arrived. He thanked me, the worry evident in his voice.
Jordan reached into his pocket and withdrew a pack of cigarettes. He lit a Marlboro, and took a few puffs, seated on the side of the road. I was standing above him, holding the flashlight. He suddenly fell backwards, arm extended above his head, lit cigarette ember-first in the grass. I grabbed the cigarette and stomped it out. Jordan sat up, saying, "It's okay; I'm okay. Oh, my head hurts!"
A door opened. The dogs were still barking - they could obviously hear my voice. I knew Sabrina must have woken up, and realized something was amiss when she saw my abandoned coffee cup outside. She appeared a few minutes later, also in her pajamas and slippers. I introduced her to Jordan: "This is my partner. She's a trained EMT. She's going to look you over."
Finally, after Sabrina had determined that Jordan's biggest issue was that he was drunk, the fire truck and ambulance arrived. We were surrounded by men and women in crisis mode; they put Jordan's neck into a brace, placed him on the stretcher, and loaded him into the ambulance. Our night was done.
Jordan was 20 years old, not even of legal age to drink. Thankfully, no one else was in the car, and no other vehicle was involved in the crash. It was chilling to realize that not 20 minutes before his wreck, I was on that foggy road, coming home. I'm glad we didn't meet.