It was a Thursday night in September of 2022. I felt a gentle breeze in the air as I walked down Farmington Avenue, exhausted after a long shift at McDonald’s. I was angry at my drug addicted father who had recently left my mother and I to pursue his high. Between him and the ever-increasing feeling that I was invisible to everyone around me, I was consumed by stress and wanted to get away from it all. I put an earbud in my right ear, the opening guitar chords of Avenged Sevenfold’s “Hail to the King” temporarily drowning the negative thoughts. I needed to feed my Arizona iced tea addiction. I walked down the sidewalk, a couple of streetlights dimly lighting Route 6. I stopped and looked around before crossing the street. I was surrounded by a drive-thru Dunkin’ behind me, an abandoned gas station to my right, and King Street on my left. In front of me was the Sunoco logo marking my haven. I walked onto the empty street and reached the island splitting the road.
Sadly, I didn’t make it into the gas station.
I saw a quick movement in the corner of my eye and turned to the right. Bam. The front of your black pickup slammed into my chest. I gasped as the impact threw me back and into the air. I saw the stars in the sky and then had a bird’s view of your truck. I came crashing down to the street. My right elbow scraped across the asphalt island and I howled from the burning pain. I laid face down, staring at the asphalt.
I wondered why my luck was so terrible. I even speculated that your truck was the universe’s cruel attempt at granting me the escape I had wished for during my darkest moments.
I looked up, squinting as your headlights shined into my pupils. I gritted my teeth and slowly rose to my feet, using the bottom of my yellow uniform shirt to cover my bleeding elbow. I looked at your windshield, the dark windows and bright headlights blinding me. I stood there for a moment, expecting you to come out of your truck. Instead, you swerved around me, tires screeching as you sped away.
“Are you fucking kidding me?!” I yelled into the night.
I doubt you or anyone else heard me, but doing so brought me a little relief. I pulled open the gas station door and the chime rang. The cashier was concerned about my condition and directed me to the bathroom. I rinsed my elbow in the sink, blood mixing with water to make a watery cherry Kool-Aid. I walked to the fridges. The air conditioning bit my arm as I grabbed one of the tall aluminum cans holding my nectar. I paid and walked out with the tea and cotton balls and peroxide. Trudging back down Farmington Avenue, I wanted to know why you chose to drive away. Were you intoxicated and feared the consequences? Did you think that I would be fine and felt no need to stick around? Did you care at all?
I entered the McDonald’s and went behind the counter. I passed the grill area and frying stations, hearing the bubbling oil and the beeps that haunted my nightmares. Two managers immediately came to me as they saw the blood on my shirt and helped me with my injury. After talking with them and calling my mom, I was convinced to report the incident and go to the hospital. I doubted the police report would go anywhere since I could only provide the two officers a vague description of your black pickup. Fortunately, I didn’t have to spend the night in the ER.
The short-term consequences of getting jacked by your grilles included three days of increasingly sore muscles, a weekend of work lost, and a delay in completing college assignments. Yet, there was something positive that came out of all this.
I realized that people cared for my well-being. My family, co-workers and managers were all concerned. I was pleasantly surprised by all the love I was shown, especially at a time when I thought I didn’t matter. I also learned that I was stronger than I thought. I took a hit from your truck and was able to stand up after. I fought through the pain and went back to work the next day. Because of that night, I have a greater confidence in myself and ability to face any challenges ahead of me. I look at the scar you left on my right elbow as a reminder that I am not weak. It also helps me to remember that there are plenty of people who would miss me if I were gone.
I feel conflicted about that September night. I want to be angry at you for your reckless behavior and the pain you caused me. However, you likely saved my life that night. If you had not knocked me off the dark path I was on, I’m not sure where I’d be now. Plus, you’ve given me one hell of a story to tell.
Isaiah Bernazal is a student at Central Connecticut State University
Headline Photo courtesy of Getty Images
0 comments on “Letter to a Stranger: To the Man Who Hit Me with His Truck and Drove Away | Isaiah Bernazal”