I was driving on Highway 1 nearing the 41st Street Exit. My brain was wobbling between stopping at the Best Buy or just going home.
The traffic suddenly slowed to a crawl, and I could see the smoke in my near future. I couldn't change out of the fast lane. The patterns of traffic were locked. I was going to have to go all the way to the Soquel exit.
Then I finally rolled up on the wreckage.
A 2006 Ford truck was on its side, driver's side down. The pavement was scored for 20 feet behind it, and the guard-rail cement had stopped the slide. Chunks of ripped plastic, metal and nondescript truck parts littered the vicinity. The truck's passenger side wheels hung in the air, limp and unsure of themselves. The windshield of the truck had impact-radius cracks working from the ground in a jagged, mathematically circular pattern to the top. I couldn't tell if the airbag had deployed.
Four cop cars were out, and their winky-blinky lights spattered my eyes with percussive blasts of color. A firetruck with all of its extreme boxiness was parked nearby. The wrecked truck had obviously been sprayed, and the ground around it had been fire-retarded. An ambulance was making its way to the scene against the traffic on the shoulder across the sluggish lanes. The traffic had slowed out of curiosity because the truck was off the road.
How this truck had popped up onto its side and slid was a mystery. There was just the truck. There was no other vehicle apparent.
The driver of the truck was talking to a battery of officers. He'd obviously climbed up out of the passenger window of his truck and then dropped down to the pavement. There was no other possible way out. The officers stood oppressive, with their hands on their hips.
It was apparent that the driver didn't like all of the attention he was getting. He looked stressed. His arms were folded, pulled in tight across his chest. The tendons and filaments of his forearms pronounced themselves. The driver appeared to be in his 20s. His hair was short. He wasn't a tall man. His face was clean-shaven. His skin was light brown.
The man was well dressed, wearing baggy jeans and black boots. He looked as though he could have been going to pick up his girlfriend, out to dinner, or to a job interview.
For some reason in my slow crawl past him, out of all the people rubber-necking, he looked over and followed me with his gaze. I looked into his eyes. His brow was furrowed. I couldn't tell if it was anger or sadness that was about to break over his face. I tried to find his pupils in this gaze. We seemed to have an intense moment together. It was as if I had forged a strange, spiritual bond with him in the half-minute it took me to pass him. He seemed to be telling me something human with his stare. He seemed to be saying that what I was seeing was the worst day of his life.