After the Wreck, I Picked Myself Up, Spread My Wings, and Flew Away
Joyce Carol Oates
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Jenna Abbott separates her life into two categories: before the wreck and after the wreck. Before the wreck, she was leading a normal life with her mom in suburban New York. After the wreck, she is alone, desperate to forget what happened that day on the bridge.
Then Jenna meets Crow, and her life is once again turned upside down. He begins to break down the wall that Jenna has built around her emotions. But can she bring herself to face the memories she's tried so hard to erase?
RESCUED FROM CAR DANGLING 50 FEET ABOVE HUDSON RIVER CAR, TRUCK IN HEAD-ON COLLISION RESCUE WORKERS PULL ACCIDENT VICTIMS TO SAFETY MOTHER, DAUGHTER TRAPPED IN CAR 40 MINUTES NO WITNESSES TO TAPPAN ZEE COLLISION I stared at the photographs. My eyes were watering badly. It took a while to make out the car grotesquely jutting through the broken railing, front wheels floating in space. It was a nightmare vision from which you couldn’t turn your eyes. TV viewers had stared, fascinated. The car
saying, my jaws have begun to tremble in that weird way, my eyes are filled with tears because the sirens are so loud, the sirens hurt, now my aunt Caroline is clutching at my arm, my hand, calling me Jenna, Jenna-honey, but I’m not listening to her either, staring at the blank TV screen now that my uncle has quickly switched it off. Later I help Aunt Caroline put Mikey to bed. Next is Becky, who wants to stay up later though she’s tired and fretful. Next is Jenna, who doesn’t actually go to
left to look after him. Thinking it would serve me right if he abandoned me here. But what he does is flags the car to a stop, speaks with the driver, explains my situation, asks if she has a cell phone. It turns out that the driver is an athletic-looking woman with two young children, the take-charge type who’s happy to hike over to where I’m standing, shivery and forlorn, on the creek embankment, dabbing at my nose with a bloody tissue. “That boy said you needed to call someone at home?
defective in a loud flat voice: “Mom, see, I explained. Jenna’s dad is this engineering genius, he’s got this supernew awesome computer, he lets us use for research? For, like, my earth science class? So—” We’re at the front door. Trina opens it, shoves me out into the cold air, which hits my face like a wall. At first my skin hurts; then I’m grateful for the cold, after the hothouse heat of Mrs. Holland’s house. Behind us Trina’s mother is calling plaintively for Trina to come back, has Trina
detective’s words hardly register. “—what happened last night that you witnessed? That you can describe to us, in detail. Please take your time, Jennifer. This is very…” Two Yarrow Lake detectives, middle-aged. Looking more like schoolteachers than cops. The woman is the one who mostly addresses me, calling me Jennifer. As often as she can: Jennifer. Because I’m looking so young, I guess. Shivery and scared. A stark-white square Band-Aid on my forehead above my bruised right eye. My mouth