The Accident

After I finally punch out, I drive slowly home through the darkened streets of the town and then out onto a country road. No radio on. After awhile I look at the road and wonder where I am. For a moment I think I am lost, but then I realize it is just misty out. I am the only car on the road. I feel almost as if I am driving through the netherworld.

My house is dark except for the lone light on the stairwell they left on for me. I take my boots off by the garage door and start to go up the stairs, but stop. I find a plastic garbage bag in the closet, and then carefully step out of my navy blue work pants. I don’t think there is any blood on my black t-shirt, but I take that off too. I tie the bag up and set it in the garage, just as I tied off a red bag at work containing my yellow traffic vest.

In my socks, I go up the carpeted stairs now, careful not to make a sound. The house is cool, the window air-conditioner in the living room is on, and there is the sound of a fan whirring, pushing the cooled air down the hallway. In the first bedroom, their door open, the girls, eight and twelve, are fast asleep next to each other.

I slip into the bedroom at the end of the hall where my five-month-old baby daughter and her mother sleep. I go into the bathroom and shut the door and only then turn on the light. I strip the rest of the way and then get into the shower. Under the hot water, I quietly soap my skin — soap until I am clean of the outside world.

I towel myself dry, shut out the bathroom light, and then reenter the sleeping room, which is illuminated only by a tiny night light.

On the edge of the bed I sit for a long while and watch mother in our bed and child in her closeby crib as they breathe without labor. Then I get in bed and put my arm around my baby’s mother, and she takes my hand and holds it tightly to her.

And I lie there wide awake.


  • Rogue Medic says:

    The good thing is that they are there for you to come home to and to leave work for. Even if you still haven’t been able to get this last shift out of your head, yet.You cannot protect them from everything, but you can cherish them when you are with them.

  • CJH says:

    Sounds like it was a bad day. The most important thing is that you got home safe. To them.

  • Anonymous says:

    I have been there too – washing away the outside world is a great way to put it – thanks for the Blog

  • Witness says:

    It’s too bad you can’t shower your mind.

  • AlisonH says:

    Whatever it was you had to see: I’m so sorry.Whoever it was who had to go through it: I’m so glad it was you who was there for them.I’m so glad you got to come home and I’m grateful that you cherished your loved ones so deeply when you did. My college-age daughter gets off work in two hours, and she won’t quite get why I’m going to be throwing my arms around her the moment she steps in the door.

  • Anonymous says:

    This is the otherside of life. The side that others outside of the field do not know or think about. Thank you for touching others lives in the work that you do.

  • RevMedic says:

    Peter – very well put. Most of us who’ve been in the field for any amount of time have gone through this. You’re just more eloquent than most.

  • Katherine Howell says:

    Peter, once again, lovely.

  • Gertrude says:

    Beautiful and eloquently put. Oh so accurate. Thank you for putting into words something that sometimes I have a difficult time doing.

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