Not an Accident

Written for a creative non-fiction class.

Traffic was heavy on the 805, but moving at the speed limit. As I drove south the late morning sun dazzled to the east, but was swallowed up by the dark fogbank still covering the beaches. San Diego in June spins with contrasts. The southern California image doesn’t match the cloudy beaches. Crowded highways dull the carefree car culture.

Just south of Highway 94, about a quarter mile ahead I was startled to see what looked like a man cart-wheeling across the two right lanes. A motorcyclist must have been hit. I gripped the wheel a little tighter, ready to hit my brakes. But there were no brake lights ahead, no slowing. In a few seconds I approached the spot where I had seen the strange acrobatics. There was no downed motorcycle. No debris at all. Off to the side a man in faded jeans and a black and white plaid flannel shirt scrambled on all fours up the steep bank of ice plant.

What had I seen? Nothing made sense to me until a couple of miles down the freeway. I came up behind a light green bus – an Immigration and Naturalization Service bus with bars on the side windows. But there were no bars on the back windows and the left one was now ringed with jagged bits of glass. The man rushing up the bank had shattered the window of the bus, climbed out and jumped into traffic to escape deportation. I tried to imagine the desperation it would take to make that leap. Traffic was heavy on the 805.