Instructions for the Witness: Show Your Work


On all occasions. Disregard your disbelief. Partial credit may be given on some answers. There may be compelling evidence. There will be no sharing of your grief. No commiserating. No communication of any sort. You are to be immersed as if in near-freezing water after just coming out of the sauna. You will be the better for it. It may be a physiological shock. You learn to harden yourself. Be unaffected by the cold. The transition from the warmth to what must feel like death. It is preparation for a dying. The effect is heightened when you are inebriated. If you have been drinking, it will be like you have skidded through the stop sign, through the guardrail—now useless tin—and through the ice, descending underwater before you realized you missed your chance to brake. Your brake lines were probably frozen anyway, and this underwater exploration provides opportunities for study and reflection. What did you hear about letting the car fill up completely with water to equalize the pressure before you could open the door and kick your way out? This is hard—you find—to do when water pressure mounts on the window of your Ford Aerostar. When the windows start to spider and the frost on the inside gives way to spray. This is when you need to keep your head, your wits about you. Get what you can from the glove compartment to prove who you are, your registration and insurance. Get anything you can. Every thing you take from this gloomy gloaming wreck is another memento of your survival and your loss. Another concrete detail for the story in the paper. Another corollary document to prove your grief. You will need to show them again and again, to tell the story until it is nearly told out, until everyone has witnessed your witness, your survival, one of few, from a car wreck in the lake.