The following is a true story, an event in my life that shook me to my core. It made me question my trust in humanity, my view on the homeless population, and ultimately, my own sanity.
“Let me paint you a picture ith my imagination brush.“(Shameless Obscure Scrubs Quote) Last year I lived in Washington, D.C., there are many lovely places to live, boasting beautiful views of the luscious parks and historic monuments. I lived on Washington circle, in the Northwest quadrant of the city. A large bronze statue dominated the circle: George Washington, the father of our country, astride a noble steed.
A cursory Google search performed after moving in revealed that the circle was a strategic military location for Union troops during the Civil War. (Proving that one can learn something every day.) Now, although my building offered a decent view of the city, my vantage point was a little different: my roommates and I lovingly referred to it as a ‘basement apartment,’ while other thoughts like “dump,” or “how is this legally a living space” often came to mind. Still, our living circumstances were better than the many homeless people populating the district. During the warm weather, a few even migrated to the circle.
Back to my life-altering event. On the particular night in question, I could not sleep. The usual dose of Netflix was not cutting it. As the clock turned from 1 to 2 to 3am, I heard the screech of tires and the unmistakable sounds of a car crash. I tossed a sweatshirt on, grabbed my phone, and raced outside Everything was happening so quickly it was hard to decide what to do first, but I know enough to call 9-11 immediately.
A very distressed man rushed past me to hail a cab, after banging on the door of the taxi, it was clear the he wasn’t going to be let in because the cabbie had seen what I had not. After my 9-11 call, I started conversing with the crash victims, and discovered the distressed man was responsible for the accident. The man had T-boned the station wagon into the circle. There was a woman screaming bloody murder at her probably broken leg. (I think I forgot how awful this story was until I started piecing the night together now, a year later.) Even now, I can still remember the screams of a woman appearing to have a broken leg.
After some questionable medical decisions by the victims (one of the passengers pulling her screaming friend haphazardly out of the smashed car), the ambulances showed up from the hospital, conveniently placed across the street. I provided a brief statement to the police, and then stood with neighbors, I had never met. Everyone was visibly shaken, and rightfully so. How many people ever witness the results of an auto accident in the immediate aftermath?
I was standing beside two neighbors lighting cigarettes. From the way their hands shook, I assumed they really need them. I declined a smoke, as more people crowded in. It’s interesting (in hindsight) to see how people react to such an awful situation. Thankfully, while no one appeared to be mortally wounded or dead, it was still a sight to behold. Broken glass was everywhere, plus dozens of emergency response vehicles and personnel. Not to mention the agonizing screams of the injured woman being carted off to the hospital. It was surreal; an experience unlike any other in my life. This is where the night turned from sad and scary to piss your pants terrifying.
In addition to the Washington statue, the park boasted a large homeless population. I had seen many of these (mostly) men after 9+ months of living there and easily picked out one person I didn’t recognize: a woman was standing close to the smokers and myself. She had a very calm look on her face, yet exuded an anxious, distraught vibe that was as troubling as it was perplexing. Then she spoke to us—and what she said is permanently scorched into my mind. In my memory she begins to look who I picture more and more like a cross between the witch from Snow White and the oracle from Game of Thrones.
She giggled, a giggle that transported me to a dark place, filled with the twins from The Shining and the girl from The Ring, and said, “he-he-he, I told them!!!!”
I think I was able to squeak out a, ‘what?’ but its hard to be certain, due to the spell I was under. She finished with, “I told them! He-he! I told them something bad would happen!” Then she skipped away, as if she hadn’t a care in the world, as if nothing tragic was happening around her.
I turned to my neighbors, blinking a few times as I tried understanding what had happened. Then I looked back to see the woman skipping away into the dark of the night, before she faded from sight.
At the time, I gave a laugh that said everything was fine, despite being shaken to the core, before walking back to my apartment as quickly and casually as possible. I locked every available lock and continued my restless night, albeit with a more tangible reason… just what I needed.
I don’t even remember falling asleep.