It’s been four years since I became a robot. Since my best friend called me “Iron Man” because I had two rods inserted into my legs when I broke them. The rods are titanium, but nicknames are supposed to be fun.
It was raining. It was Father’s Day and I had just gotten off of work. I went home and ran inside to grab my dad’s gift and my sister and rushed out.
“Be careful, it’s raining,” said my mom.
I told her I’d be fine and blew her warning off. Like I always did. Like I still do.
We had to stop to get a card for him. When you’re nineteen and eighteen, you don’t think about getting cards for your parents because at that age, cards are for money, and we weren’t giving my dad money. The rain had died down. Then the skies opened up again, inundating everything for a few minutes before abruptly stopping. Summer rains are weird in Florida. The cars in front of me slowed down, driving cautiously. I’d never understood why they insisted on changing their driving style just for the sake of some water on the road. I’d always driven in the rain like I did in the sun. I had to slow down, though, because the line of traffic in front of me was weaving through the turns slowly, safely.
I should have been more careful. I should have realized I’d only had this car for six days and hadn’t driven it in the rain and that it did matter when the weather changed. The only thing this car didn’t have for me was a means to listen to my iPod. I had to listen to the radio, and the only station I didn’t hate was a classic rock station. Heart’s Magic Man was playing. Around one turn I went. The song moved into its bridge. Around the next turn I coasted. Guitar solo. Bass drum, snare drum, bass drum, snare drum, cymbal, CRASH.
Everything was hot. My head hurt. It smelled like rain. Some guy was leaning in my car, now facing the other direction on the other side of the road, asking me if I was okay. He told me not to move, said my legs were broken. I had no idea what he was talking about. I looked to my right and saw my little sister, a bloody mess, shaking in the passenger seat next to me. If I wasn’t disoriented I would have cried my eyes out. I turned back. Two paramedics were there. They opened my door said something about this being the painful part and just as I nearly lost my head as my body slumped forward, they lifted me up and reminded me I was still alive.
The pain writhing throughout my legs was nothing compared to what I felt inside. As the medic carried me out of the car, I caught a glimpse of my dad and my stepmom standing ten feet away. I howled out in pain, screaming myself hoarse, more terrified of how much I had to be scaring them than what had happened to me. I don’t know what it was—guilt isn’t the right word. But I felt awful for putting them through this, for having to watch me get carried away while I shrieked and cried out and disappeared into the back of an ambulance.
We spent a week in the hospital. We were children again; our parents took turns sleeping on a cot between us to make sure we were okay. I was a baby again. I couldn’t walk, had no use for a toilet, and cried every time I saw my sister. Every time I saw the dried blood on her forehead. Every time I saw her eyes were swollen shut. Every time I saw her wrist in that purple cast. Every time my parents told me it wasn’t my fault, that I should have been glad we were both okay, I didn’t feel okay. I couldn’t feel okay.
It took me years to feel okay. It took me two months to walk again. It took me three years to stop crying every June 15.
I’ll never stop hearing “Be careful, it’s raining.”