Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Nightmare

In December of 2005, I became stuck in marshmallow fluff. Or so it seemed at the time.

Grayson was engrossed in a movie, Rob was changing the oil in the car, and I was going to spend the afternoon embracing the holidays. I had constructed the perfect gift wrapping station for myself: a large square table in front of the couch, tape and scissors within arms reach, and "Holiday Inn" on the TV. Perfect.

The movie had just started - I don't think the opening number had ended. I hadn't even wrapped a single gift when I thought I heard the first call from outside. "Janice!" I relunctantly pushed away from my perfect gift wrapping station and hauled my 5-month-pregnant self off the couch with an eye roll. Before I was on my feet, it came again. "Janice!"

And I knew. I don't know how, but I knew from the sound of Rob's voice that something was terribly wrong. I knew with such absolute certainty that I immediately started shaking, and stumbled over the table leg in my urgency to get out from behind it. And suddenly time began to freeze.

I remember the feeling so clearly. My body falls forwards and slides on knees and palms across the tile floor. I try to stand, but can't. My hands and knees are stuck in slow motion, as if they were pulling marshmallow fluff from the floor. It is a moment of eerie mental acuity. I remember thinking, "This is exactly like those nightmares of being chased, but not being able to run because your feet melt into the ground!"

In what felt like 10-minutes, but was probably just seconds, I crawl to the front door with excruciating effort. The door handle is like a life raft I am pulling myself up with, and throw open the door. Just like that, time restores itself.

Outside, Rob is stuck underneath the car in our driveway.

I run around to the passenger side of the car where his legs are struggling, and see where the broken jack has been spit out and hit the fence. He uses a ragged breath to tell me, "Get the jack!" But I can't. I know it will take me too long to figure out. So I run to the neighbor's house and bang on the door. The wife answers, and my polite upbringing takes over. "Is Barry home?" I ask. "Yeah, let me get him," she says. And I stand there waiting. WAITING! And then I hear Rob trying to inhale and I know the time for good manners is long past. "I need help quick! Rob is stuck under the car," I scream through the open door. "We're coming honey!" I yell to reassure Rob as I sprint home.

I bend over and try to lift the Honda by the front bumper. The small amount I manage to lift enables Rob to get a tiny breath, but when he exhales, the car goes down with him. "Fuck, I'm going to die under here," he chokes out. "Don't talk," I say. "Save your breath. Don't panic. Use your ambulance experience to keep calm." I lay on my back and use my legs to push up on the car. He takes another breath. I feel warm and jittery with adrenaline, and wonder what it is doing to the baby growing inside. I wonder if Rob will live to meet the baby. I am thankful that Rob is not alone.

I look to the side and notice Grayson has come out of the house. He is nonchalant, but staring and trying to process the strange scene in front of him. I don't want my 4-year-old to hear his dad talk about dying - especially if he is. I ask him to go inside and find my cell phone, which he does. Together we try to dial 9-1-1, but my hands are shaking too bad and my eyes can't stay focused, and the call doesn't go through. At some point Barry's wife will bring Grayson over to her house and shield him from the happenings. (His only memory of that day will be getting to watch Jimmy Neutron on TV.)

Barry is running down the walkway yelling to his wife, "Call 9-1-1!" He goes to the other side of the car and helps me lift. Rob gets a little more breath. My legs are giving out and my side of the car goes down a little. Rob screams in agony. Barry and I both yell wildly for help to anyone who might hear. A bicyclist across the street rushes over with her son. They help us lift, and Rob gets another breath. Then we can hear the sirens. I tell Rob, "Help is coming. Hold on. They are almost here. Don't die!" Neighbor Norm arrives and together the five of us are able to lift the car just a little bit higher. It is enough. Rob wiggles out just as the ambulance stops in front of the house. He is pale, lightheaded, gasping, sore. But alive.

I touch him to make sure he is real. I hear him heaving and watch his chest move, and the warm rush of adrenaline leaves me. I'm a puddle on the cement, cold, nauseous, rubbery and faint. The paramedic moves from Rob to me, pleading with us both to go to the hospital.  But we don't. We cry and touch and cry some more. We take a tour of the Christmas lights, counting our blessings and believing in miracles.