A CAUSE FOR CELEBRATION

B1

The preliminary police report rendered me dead upon impact.

A drunk driving a Marathon cab fitted with an extended, reinforced steel bumper had broadsided us. He was clocking up to 70 in a 30-mph zone when he ran a red light and collided with the VW Bug I was easing into a parking spot as Liz sat next to me in the suicide seat.

The impact was ferocious. While peripheral vision allowed me a glimpse of my killer, there was no other warning. No screeching of brakes. No screaming of pedestrians. No sense of impending doom. Just a mild feeling of astonishment before whispering, “Oh my God, I’m dead.” That’s what I said.

Our car was ripped apart (lengthwise) from hood to trunk, welding the sheared pieces to the front end of the taxi. Twenty feet away, our flung wreckage had come to a halt at the entrance of a branch bank. I hung down twisted and broken through the remains, my face hovering just above the pavement, my auburn curls resembling a red rag mop.

Most gay couples are drawn and quartered by such tragedy. They’re impeded by laws awarding jurisdiction to distant family members. They’re intimidated by protocol and prodded by propriety. Their feelings and wishes are summarily dismissed as irrelevant. Barred from the ambulance. Excluded from intensive care. Denied decision-making.

“She’s my sister,” Liz lied emphatically. It instantly ended any question of her authority.

The first time she lied was to the officers who barricaded the wreckage, then tried to restrain her from reaching back for me. They’d dragged her clear, insisting I was beyond help.

How she broke loose, and what transpired is a wonder.

I must have responded to the energy of her touch. I must have been warmed to the blending of her tears in my stone-cold eyes. I must have sensed the silent incantations of her heart imploring mine to hold the course of ‘us’ as one, against all obstacles and odds.

“Hey, babe!” I breathed.

Her second lie was to the ambulance attendants. The third, to emergency room doctors. The fourth, to nurses. And then to technicians, aides, and investigators. She didn’t hesitate to claim me as her sister, knowing involuntary deceit had long been coerced from gays in lieu of being banished and public humiliation.

Lies were once our only conceivable lifeline.

Fortunately, I was a corporate executive for a large conglomerate. It gave me special insurance privileges that provided her with unlimited hospital access. She stayed in my room. She partook in every detail of my care and was privy to all my medical information. My doctors consulted her. My nurses kept her updated.

Nevertheless, when it came to certain courses of action, not everything suggested was automatically allowed.

It’s because (even now) most lesbians mistrust the medical profession. We cringe at the prospect of contact with male doctors. We shy to probes pertaining to our personal lives and intimate behavior. And, even though many older women entered conventional relationships in an effort to hide their true sexual identities, there are vast numbers of lesbians who have never engaged in intimacy with a man. Women who know being gay goes far beyond an aversion to heterosexual sex; that the differences in our genetic codes include a wiring that circuits a deep-seated aversion and basic incompatibility with all dominant aspects of the opposite gender.

It’s as if (equivalent to the distinction found between Asian and African elephants trumpeting in the night) science will someday discover that we, too, are a similar — but different — species.

So it came as no surprise to Liz when I refused to be catheterized, even though catheterization was necessary to save me. Regardless of the brutal total body trauma I suffered, this perfectly natural anomaly had triggered my sense of dignity, demanding decorum. Only the empathy and courage of a surgical nurse named Christine could clear the emergency room of male doctors and provide me with the symbiosis I needed to survive.

Forty-one years have passed since the crash that forever altered our lives. I insist the change was for the best, even though I pass each day in fluctuating degrees of pain, and walk with a cane, and sleep with my neck and left leg braced. My brain still spasms on rare occasions, jerking my head violently to the left. My hand sometimes trembles. My body sometimes buckles. My ears burn shades of crimson whenever my emotions run high, or my energy runs low.

And, even though I can no longer sit for more than 30 minutes at a stretch, nor walk for longer than 20 without resting, nor stand on cement surfaces for any length of time, from all outward appearances you’d never suspect there was anything amiss with me.

No criminal proceeding ever materialized since, back then, drunk driving was a misdemeanor. And it took well over a year before the civil action found its way onto a court docket. By then the driver had vanished, while both the taxicab company and its insurance agency filed for bankruptcy.

That left the state to assume jurisdiction over the proceedings, and it would only approve payment of a dime on every dollar litigated, with a preset ceiling attached.

My lawyer told me to settle for $30,000 against bills that would total 10 times that in just 10 years.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because you lied about being sisters,” he said. “And if we went to court, that lie will come up. It’s a character issue. You’ll have no presumed credibility.”

“A character issue?” charged Liz. “Whose character?”

My attorney remained silent except for his shuffling of documents.

“The drunk driver?” she asked. “His employer? The insurance broker? The court demanding a decision?”

“Settle,” he suggested a second time.

“And if I don’t?” I challenged.

“I’m not certain my firm can work a trial date into our calendar. I’m afraid, if you don’t settle, you’ll have to find other representation.”

So I settled.

Honestly? I was just so damn happy to be alive, grateful for every second of every extra day.

“And, when you think about it,” Liz reasoned as we left the courthouse heading home, “for the rest of our lives they have to be them. But we get to be us.”

It’s a cause for celebration.

#   #   #   #

This freshly updated essay by Marguerite Quantaine first appeared in the third person in The St. Petersburg Times (2008) and Venus Magazine in the first person (2010).  Copyright by M. Quantaine © 2008 / 2010 / 2013.

Please share your thoughts here by selecting REPLY.

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37 thoughts on “A CAUSE FOR CELEBRATION

  1. Shawn Cady

    OK, as soon as I dry my eyes and stop crying, I will respond! Amazing story of love, compassion and strength! I am so proud to be your friend!

    Reply
  2. Yvonne Heidt

    I’m such a fan of your writing. I feel each word of it – and see it. That being said: I’m so glad you had each other and that you are still here – despite the horrific challenges. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
    1. margueritequantaine Post author

      The challenges were great (and still are at times) but not horrific. I lost no limbs, my face wasn’t scarred, and my life just kept getting better despite it all. I owe most of that to my sweetheart and urge people to spend less time investing in becoming wealthy and more time investing in each other. Love will make you rich.

      Reply
  3. Noora

    Deeply touching post. You have been blessed with love and the gift of writing. I’m glad you found my blog – I feel honored to be able to read your inspiring writings. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  4. Barrett

    wow, that was a splash of ice water. I’m thankful you’re here, you and Liz are together, and that you are courageous and willing to share your struggles. You’re an amazing woman, Chlorox and all!

    Reply
  5. Mary Anne

    Looks like Liz is not just the love of your life but your guardian angel as well.
    I would bet that you have all the legal papers necessary to insure that there is never a need to lie to a doctor or a hospital staffer again. And I bet that there are women who will read this and say “I’m so glad that things are not like that any more.”
    Thanks for hanging in there and thanks for sharing your stories.

    Reply
    1. margueritequantaine

      We DO have the papers in place but, alas, we live in a small southern town that is wicked with people willing to cause anyone who isn’t far right conservative harm. So whenever I go to a hospital, especially, I recommend saying sister, regardless of what’s on file. I get consistently good care that way. Trust me. I know. I had to switch hospitals once to learn that lesson.

      Reply
  6. Sheri Campbell

    I’m in shock. Thank you for sharing this part of your life story. I kept thinking this is the beginning of her new book…but then it was memories..Real. How strong Liz was or is and you too. I’m humbled that you even bothered to send me notes of encouragement following my little back surgery that I thought was bad…girl you walked through HELL and still suffering. You both have my greatest respect. Oh the side I have enjoyed reading your novels too.

    Reply
  7. Sheri Campbell

    P.S. I wish the curse of a million Texas red ants to invade your lawyers shorts, o.k. his whole body. What an ass..

    Reply
    1. margueritequantaine

      You just brighten my day, Sheri. Actually, I’ve used many of my own experiences in writing my novel, that I say is “based on a true-enough story.” I think any really good writer must tap into those emotions and memories to make fiction realistic. It’s mostly a matter of “if this had happened to me, what would I have said, how would I have reacted” sort of motive.

      But you must never belittle your own pain or suffering by comparing it to another. You own it. You went through it. I don’t care if it was toenail removal, pain is pain and I have have empathy with everyone while wishing it on no one. I’ve had a wonderful life. I wouldn’t trade it for anyones, no matter how healthy, wealthy, or wise.

      I concur about lawyers and red ants though. Way.

      Reply
  8. Inspirational Muse

    Oh Marguerite – what a horrible accident. I’m so sorry to hear of the pain and things you still have to deal with because of it. Glad Liz was there to take care good care of you. Most straight people wouldn’t believe how real our fear is of having partners banned from a hospital room. It’s outrageous. So was your attorney for suggesting you were wrong for saying you were sisters. A sad story beautifully told with a very happy ending. Cheers to love and Liz! -Michelle

    Reply
    1. margueritequantaine

      It was horrible, yes. And some days are more difficult than others. But the good outweighs the bad, and the blessings far exceed the burdens. I’m grateful for every minute of every day, and got to learn to appreciate life early on so there’s never been any looking back with regret. Lucky, lucky me.

      Reply
  9. Mercedes

    I absolutely love your perspective and your stories of your life.
    I’m sorry you had to settle for such a messed up deal, but I’m really, really blessed that you are alive and I have had the honor of ‘meeting’ you.
    Keep celebrating, my friend!

    Mercedes

    Reply
  10. margueritequantaine

    I feel the same for you Mercedes. We get to know each other. And the deal wasn’t so bad. After all, I got the girl didn’t I? And that trumps all. Yep. This is what I’m thinkin’.

    Reply
  11. joskehan

    How cruel and unjust society was, is and continues to be on the grounds of non compliance with what ‘they’ perceive to be the correct way to live our lives. Disgusting is the word that comes to mind, unfair, unforgivable and unacceptable are others. It is time the world changed its views. We are all human, we all have rights to live as we choose. I honestly admire your courage Marguerite, and this story is an inspiration to others suffering any kind of adversity. You and Liz are truly beautiful people. Hugs. xx

    Reply
    1. margueritequantaine Post author

      Yes, I agree Jo, people can demonstrate a careless disregard for what is common sense good and right. But I’ve had more than my share of good with the bad, and believe I’m better off in spite of certain setbacks. Few people get to have the same someone by their side every step of the way making the journey joyful. And for this I am truly grateful.

      Sent from my iPad

      Reply
  12. Donna Wells

    I read this yesterday while at work, I wanted to cry for all the unjustices. The one line that stayed with me for the rest of the day, that made me smile ” For the rest of our lives they have to be them, But we get to be us” After all that is said and done, that is what I remember most from this blog. thank you for sharing, I enjoy and look forward to more of your blogs

    Reply
  13. Karen Fuchs

    Margeurite .I am so glad you are both here , you have written such a descriptive and feeling post . I feel I have lived your experience with you . Life is so unfair .. but with your amazing writing , think how you can accomplish and teach people how to become much more aware of what being a human is all about . I wish you and Liz , many more years of happiness and love together . !!! . ❤ Thanks so much for the good read ! Sincerely ,
    Karen .

    Reply
  14. margueritequantaine

    Yes, Karen, I agree, life is unfair, but on many levels. On the one hand I was dealt a terrible blow, but on the other hand I was rewarded with the will, skill, and more good fortune than any 10 other people I know. Often I feel that is unfair, too – for me to be given so much by comparison.

    Liken to you in a long, happy marriage, I am most grateful for the love that provided me the courage. But to be able to tell stories that touch others hearts – oh my! – that’s just another blessing beyond belief, as are the friends I’ve made on the other side of the page.

    Including you.

    Reply
  15. brguest

    Wow!! You inspire me marguerite. This reminds me of the movie if these walls could talk. We have taken every step to protect ourselves for situations just like this. Yet the right to marriage is the only anwser. I am glad you bless us all with your life experiences. Thank you!

    Reply
  16. margueritequantaine

    Thanks Miss D. I recall that movie and understand the connection made. I wish I could say things have improved in the last 41 years. Alas, for the vast majority of people and places they haven’t. What has changed is our willingness to step up on behalf of each other. My hope is that this helps

    Reply
  17. Bren Nelson

    Thank you, Marguerite for sharing this event with your superb writing. I know having to lie about my friend and call her my sister just to be able to have her at my side. You are right, the survival and healing and being together is cause for celebration.

    Reply
  18. margueritequantaine

    Don’t let anyone suggest it’s wrong, Bren. I think, sometimes, the younger generations believe what’s right, fair, honest, and ideal surpasses safety, security, and reality. But until those dreams are realized, I strive to protect and cherish love, at all costs, no matter what is demanded of me.

    Reply
  19. Jen D.

    Progress really is a slow process, but your story is evidence that it really is happening. I guess we don’t really feel the earth revolving, either, and yet it does constantly. I’m just damned glad you’re alive.

    I love this: “for the rest of our lives they have to be them. But we get to be us.” This is my standard line when there is no recompense for damages done to me or mine. That Liz is a keeper. 😉

    Reply
  20. margueritequantaine

    Yes, Jen, she is for of-so many reasons, not the least of which was her commitment to our living our lives as if we were on borrowed time from that day forth, making certain we’d always look back with wonderful memories – but absolutely no regrets. In that respect, the imposed burden instantly became a blessing, and each path we’ve crossed along the way – including yours, doll face – has enhanced our lives in remarkable ways. I can only hope these stories survive as footnotes (if not pages) of the final days testifying to history and what it took to achieve the equality promised to all Americans 237 years ago.

    Reply
    1. Jen D.

      We’ll keep fighting the good fight! (you can’t see it, but I’m flexing my ample guns – and by guns, I mean my too-big-for-this-tiny-body biceps.) That oughta scare ’em.

      Reply
  21. Siobhan Wolf

    Wow. What an experience. The court system is just…beyond words. On another day, in the morning, with no drinking involved but rather cavorting teenage boys with more than the legal limit of passengers in the car, my friend was struck broadside, spun, car took air and landed on the grass, somehow missing a stop sign and a light pole. Not life threatening, but she lives in constant pain from back injuries. It was clearly a running of the stop sign by the distracted youth with only a week’s worth of license. And still, her lawyer did the same. Settle. For not nearly enough to cover the cost of treatments and surgeries. It’s appalling. (She is not gay, but she is obese. The discrimination is rampant.)

    I so thank you for visiting my meager blog and bringing me here to yours. Keep it up! Your writing is powerful.

    Reply
    1. margueritequantaine Post author

      I love your blog. You have an eye for beauty. I believe it speaks of your heart. Lucky me to have found you! I feel deep empathy for your friend. I wish her well. You, too.

      Reply

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