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Accidents, by Susan Shaw

Just before Christmas 2016, I taught a short Journal and Sketchbook class at Lillstreet Art Center on Chicago. One of the participants kindly agreed to let me post a piece that she wrote in the class, along with an accompanying sketch.


I felt like an animal. An angry, sweaty animal-anger in my veins. I could hardly sit there.

"Do you feel depressed?" asked Dr. Cook, the shrink.

"Yes", I said. I was only 14 and already I was depressed.

"Well you can’t imagine what real pain is. I got hit by a car. The impact of that car - I will never forget it. Terrible pain. Crash! Right into my legs. You were probably wondering why I have braces and crutches."

"Actually, no", I said. "Can you give me some kind of medicine?"

"We're going to talk first, then maybe medicine. The pain was horrible. Thank god you didn't have to go through it."

Dr. Cook was freaking me out and I felt like smacking her with my hand. Probably my manic depressive hand.

My mother was out and called her chatty friend Peggy to pick me up in her SUV. She went on and on; the dry cleaners did a bad job, the oil crisis was ruining her life, restaurants had bad service - there was something wrong with everything including air and trees.

As she pulled away, I realized I had no key to get in. I rang the doorbell over and over. I was so hungry. I rapped on the little square windows that framed the door to see if she had maybe gotten back. Then I decided to just punch one of the windows. I punched right through the glass and I lost a chunk of my thumb. My mother finally came home and she ushered me in, wrapping my bleeding thumb in a dishtowel. She said I was an animal and asked if I liked the shrink.

We went to the emergency room. "I'm fucked", I said aloud. It was a week before my 8th grade graduation. Suddenly my dad showed up with a cocktail napkin wrapped around the bloody chunk of thumb that was left on the windowpane. He was so proud of himself. Always the hero.
The doctor sewed the chunk back in place.

Now I was really, really hungry and I could feel the depression descending on me. I was the one that got injured, so I thought I should pick the restaurant, but they decided on their bar that only served burgers with - get this: potato chips. No fries! Now I was really, really angry. I did what I always did since getting this way; I ran out of the restaurant but no one followed me. They were used to it because usually I would come back. Not this time. I walked home along the highway. I was so sweaty I could feel drops running down my neck. It was taking me forever to get home. My parents drove by and I gave them the finger before I started crying for food. Please give me some KFC or MacDonald’s or 8.00 worth of frozen yogurt-I mean c'mon here! I was injured!

"I'll make you some scrambled eggs", said my mother when I got home.

Oh God, how she annoyed me, always offering something she knew I didn’t like. I needed options.

"I want a deep fryer for graduation", I countered. We argued until bedtime and by then I was so hungry that I wasn't hungry anymore. So I put my 77 lb body. in bed and punched the wall with my good hand. And it felt really good.

The next morning my hands didn't feel so good but I went to school. It was a private school and we were all extra advanced. We took black beauties so we could so we could do our homework faster. We smoked pot morning, noon and night. Our lighter activities included slingshots and chipmunks, lacing milk with vodka and competing to see who could lose our virginity. It was a fine school indeed. When I told my friends what happened they said I was a badass.

Wednesday came again and I was supposed to see Dr. Cook. Again she brought up the accident.

"You never know what can happen", she warned me.

Somehow I kind of snapped out of it, as much as a 14 year old could.

"No you don't", I said.

"So why are you depressed?" she asked, but I was daydreaming, seeing the big black car on a sunny day driving right into her fat legs. She screamed and fell, blood everywhere. If that much blood could come out of my thumb, I could see gallons of it while she lay on the street, screaming. She was mangled.

She had to be rushed to the hospital and sewn up. It was terrible but I think her sad tale was just a way to distract her patients. I was determined to throw her off her game.

"What about the lithium?" she asked.

"Yeah, it's not working for me."

"Nothing worked for me after the accident either. What happened to your thumb?"

"Oh, I cut myself picking up a broken glass."

"Well just imagine the pain when the car---"

I couldn't take it anymore. Her whole story was just a way to distract me.

It was supposed to be about me.

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