What It Feels Like to Stare Death in the Face (and Live to Tell About It)
I almost died last Sunday, but then Death must’ve changed its mind and decided I should die another day.
It was a humid summer afternoon, possibly one of the hottest days of the month. The sun was beating down the metro, its scorching glare reflecting off the mirrors and glass windows of the vehicles slowly inching their way through the maze of traffic. Now that I think about it, the sun’s merciless rays must’ve played a part in blinding the driver of the other bus and tricking him into thinking that the lane was clear.
I was riding a Jasper Jean liner on my way home from south. My seat was at the first row, right beside the bus door and window. The ride was uneventful for the most part, save for the driver’s occasional banters with the conductor which didn’t help in relieving the uncomfortable heat inside the bus. My arms were already sticky from sweat, and I kept on silently cursing the woman beside me for rubbing her equally sticky and sweaty arms against mine the entire ride. When I look back now, though, I’m actually thankful she was sitting beside me that time. After all, it was her earsplitting scream that alerted me of the imminent danger.
As far as I could remember, our bus was speeding down the highway at a velocity that you’d expect from provincial buses. Its stops are far and few in between, so the driver skillfully squeezed through every possible gap he could spot on the congested road to cut the travel time even shorter.
Reckless as he was, I knew the near-accident wasn’t his fault. I was mindlessly scanning through my phone’s playlist trying to find the next song to play when I heard the bloodcurdling scream of the woman beside me and looked up just in time to witness the horrifying Final Destination-like scene in front of me.
A bus suddenly switched to our lane without so much as a signal to our driver. Everything happened so fast, all at once. It was a cacophony of heart-stopping sounds: the long, blaring horn from our bus as the driver pounded it with all his might and stepped on the brakes with as much force as he could muster, the deafening, horrified screams of all passengers, and the piercing screech of protesting tires.
I must’ve screamed; I couldn’t remember. It was like watching a Final Destination scene unfold right in front of me. The other bus seemed to zoom in and grow larger as we approached it at high speed, its size filling nearly half of the windshield. It missed our side mirror by a hair strand.
That wasn’t the most traumatic part. As our bus passed the other swiftly, I spun around to look outside my window and realized the other bus didn’t stop yet. It was speeding to my direction, about to hit the side of the bus right where I was sitting helpless and shocked. I had a split second to realize that – holy shit – I’d be hit. I’d be the epicenter of this crash, and I’d take the full force of the impact. Fucking shit, I’m about to die.
My mind was blank; I felt like I was trapped to my seat. Human instinct took over, though, because I turned away from the window, cowered in my seat, assumed the fetal position, and put my hands over my head in a feeble attempt to shield myself from the impact that I knew would come in a split second. I waited for the shower of broken glass and the violent force of crushed metal. I surrendered to the possibility of dying a brutal death. There was nothing I could do to escape.
At that moment, I felt the chill of Death sweep by and brush against my skin, as if pulling me in a cold embrace. I was terrified beyond belief. But my paralyzed mind whispered a faint so be it. Just take me, get it over with.
But a second passed. And then another. The rumble of engine stopped. I opened my eyes, but stayed in my fetal position. I couldn’t breathe, though I know I must still be alive because I felt my heart hammering against my chest.
I put my shaking hands down and grabbed my seat to pull myself up. I slowly turned and looked out the window. The other bus stopped just in time, less than a split second before impact. It was so close that it filled the entire window to my side and completely covered my view. I think I could’ve reached out and touched its windshield if there weren’t any glass between us.
All passengers were in shock. After cursing loudly, our driver restarted the engine and slowly inched our bus down the narrow lane, away from the vehicle at fault. It was over. I was still alive. I could almost hear Death’s mirthless chuckle as it swept away to claim someone else’s life in place of mine.
I was still shaking when I got home and called my mom. In times of near-death experience, the first person you’d call is the one closest to your heart. In my case, it was my mom. I’ve never felt so glad to hear her reassuring voice. It was comforting; I felt like a child again wanting a mother’s reassurance that everything’s okay.
After talking to my mom, I hung up the phone and cried. I thought of my son, my fiancé, family, friends – everyone I would have left behind. It made me realize how powerless we truly are in the face of Death.
Needless to say, I was traumatized. I couldn’t remember the number of times I thanked the Lord for sparing my life that day.
I felt like I cheated Death, like the entire experience was merely its chilling way of saying “see you later”.
I just hope it moved me to the bottom of its Final Destination list. I’d like to live much longer.