I wave back at Josh, pulling away slowly. The window zips up as I turn, cutting off the saltwater breeze from the ocean obscured by countless sprawling towers surrounding the side street. Once Josh’s smile has left my mirror, I hastily plug my smartphone into the audio deck, my ears eager to devour more of Pi Patel’s ocean odyssey. I smile as the narrator’s soothing take fills my ears, my hands handling the growing traffic evenly. Even long waits at red lights fail to bother me – some part of my mind savors each wait and the extra minutes of story granted. A green light, and a green arrow under it now shine ahead. I accept the arrow’s invitation, guiding the car left across the wide intersection.
Shivering, I guide the car to the curb, berthing it next to a looming sign, forbidding any parking in angry red letters. A mad imagining passes my mind – a cop, face hidden under huge sunglasses, scrawling a ticket just to add further insult to my injured pride. I shake off the vision, and tear out the cable connecting the still-playing smartphone. Silence, followed by many shallow, shaky breaths of composure.
Then I turn to my rear bumper. It dangles, with one corner barely attached to the car. A black foam insert lies on the ground under it. Dazed, I circle my wounded car. A ragged concave gash consumes the rear left door, along with a few inches of space above the wheel. The taillight is gone, its glass scattered across the pavement in a trail of red fragments.
Something vibrates in my hand. I realize I’ve got my phone gripped tightly. I look, and my wife’s smiling picture looks back at me from the screen. The beefy driver of the blue van prowls toward me, anger stretched over his large face.Another vibration, and my fingers swipe and take the call, before my mind realizes it. My wife’s voice, in lyric Korean, asking where I am. The big man, a full head higher than me, stares down at her voice. A sigh escapes him, his frown softens. He pinches the phone between two sausage fingers, and I let him take it. He answers.
I follow the dialogue intently, mind working overtime as I decipher the rapid fire Korean. The man’s calm belies his momentary anger. Surprise dawns in me as I realize the man is claiming fault. He insists that his insurance will take on all damage to both vehicles.
A curt smile plays across his face as he presses the phone back to me. My wife’s voice is even and calm as she begins to repeat much of what I’ve heard in English. I assure her, in my ever-shaky Korean, that I understand the fine details.
A tow truck appears from around the corner, just as I hang up. I quickly turn my phone in my fingers, aiming its camera at the wounds to my car. I open the trunk, relief beginning to seep through my nerves as I see no damage within its confines. The big man helps as I rescue a backpack and my laptop’s shoulder bag from the trunk. My most needed items in hand, I’m left to watch as my car is pulled off to join other wounded vehicles in a repair shop.
A few awkward minutes of conversation leave me with the big man’s business card, insurance numbers, and license plate number. He points to an oncoming car as it pulls to the curb. My rental, a temporary car provided by his insurance.
We shake hands, and he climbs in to his van. I watch him pull away, moving with careful grace as he rejoins traffic.
A handsome young man is climbing out of the rental car. His English is flawless, but I only barely listen as I imagine myself at the wheel of this spotless vehicle worth twice as much as the one I’ve abandoned. Another call comes from my wife. My fingers answer again, pressing the ‘Speaker’ button as they do. My wife’s confident English assures me that I’ll be fine driving the rental. The young man smiles as he hefts my bags into the car, and then passes a key into my hand.
Behind the unfamiliar steering wheel, I glance at my smartphone. Pi Patel’s voyage might calm my jangled nerves, I think. I sigh, heart still slowing to its usual cadence, still recovering from that second after impact. No, that story will have to wait. I have my own voyage to finish.
This story is a response to the prompt on One Minute Writer for February 2, “Accident”. What I wrote was a fictional account of an accident I had in downtown Busan. I put up the #FlashFriday tag so I could join the fun of the FlashFriday.org community (and it’s still Friday by GMT, even though my own clock says differently). I’d love to hear what regular #FlashFriday participants have to say about this quick piece.