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When we reached the collision center off of Colorado and 11th, Anne said, “This is where cars go
to die.” The gutted husks were lined side by side like amputees in adjoining hospital beds.
Stripped paint, busted headlights, sheared bumpers, windshields with spider-web fractures, they
sweated in the May morning. Dying or dead, I couldn’t tell the difference. She squeezed the
pickup into a parking spot and we listened to her brakes softly whine.

The suit behind the desk had a crewcut that arched with his smile. Generic west LA tan, 24 Hour
Fitness body, bleached molars, his name could’ve been Bob or Bill, Alan or Alex, it didn’t
matter. Anne told him the VIN number while he ogled her make and model. “2005 Nissan?” he
asked. I touched her bare calf with my foot and felt her flinch. “That’s the one,” she answered.

We found my car roosting in the corner of the lot. The sand and gravel gave way to her footsteps
as we swept past a crosshatch of tire tracks. I counted the seagulls circling above us like
zeppelins in orbit as a lot worker wordlessly handed Anne a pair of moving boxes. I wondered
what she wrote on the insurance claim last week: “Maimed to an early grave?” “Lost its will to
live?” She got into the sedan from the driver’s side rear door to fish out things she couldn’t, in
clear conscience, leave behind – her department tassel, my dog-eared copy of The Sun Also
Rises, a lint covered Vicodin, a pair of mink gloves I bought her for Valentine’s, Polaroids of us,
soiled leg warmers. Anne cursed as she filled the boxes with our things, at me maybe, at herself,
or no one, “Fuck, fuck, fuck.”

I couldn’t say why I thought it would help, but I started telling her about the weekend we spent
in Portland and the way the Pacific looked like blue paint sloshing in a big bucket on the ride up.
She had her hair short then and I’d call her “Anne, my man.” And every time without fail, she’d
start singing until her voice reached the ceiling “I’m Your Man,” the only Leonard Cohen song
she knew. I asked her if she still had the burned CD the bouncer gave us outside the Red Star
Tavern because he thought I looked like an Asian Eddie Vedder. Then Anne started crying. I
stopped talking.

On our way home, a Honda ran a stop sign and shoved the corner of her back bumper. The boxes
in the truck bed spilled our things all over Sepulveda like Christmas gifts we’d forgotten to wrap.
Anne didn’t scream this time. When I asked her if she was alright, she shakily opened the door
and vomited. “I’m sorry,” she whispered to me between wet heaves of breakfast, her guilt
robbing her lungs.

She left the truck parallel parked and took a taxi to St. John’s. Over the course of the last seven
days, Anne had clocked in approximately thirty five hours worth of visits. I used to watch us
together, her holding my hand as the monitor beside us beeped its waves. My ST elevation told
her that males are seventy percent more likely to be fatally injured in a car accident. My cardiac
output insisted that I would never wake up. When the doctor came in to show her the results of
my Glasgow Coma Scale, I stood there as she leaned over the bed to kiss me goodbye. Dying or
dead, I couldn’t tell the difference.





Lam Pham is a writer living in Los Angeles. His fiction has or is set to appear in The Good Men Project Magazine, escarp, Fractured West, Cuento Magazine, and Down in the Dirt. 

 



In January, a friend of mine got into a car accident less than three miles from my house. She ended up staying with me for nearly a month, literally stranded 150 miles away from her home and husband. Over the course of her stay, we took a visit to the local collision center in Santa Monica. As I helped pack up her things she'd left behind in the car, excavating relics from both her far and more recent past, this story surfaced to my mind. 





 





  


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