Perhaps the only thing thicker than the dust cloud was the pungent smell of smoldering tires mixed with all the other colored fluids that fill car radiators and the other receptacles that lie under the hood.
When I finally opened my eyes, I was suspended by my seatbelt, still in the driver's seat of my Jeep, which had come to rest on its passenger side. My hands still gripped the steering wheel as tightly now as when my pen first transformed itself from a writing implement into part of a Jeep. I realized that it was the seatbelt, rather than my knuckle-whitening grip on the wheel that had kept me from being violently ejected during the high-speed rollover, all along. This was a stroke of good fortune, because I am embarrassed to admit that, back then, I buckled my belt approximately 50% of the time. Needless to say, I now use seatbelts religiously, even as a rear-seat passenger.
It took me a while to release the belt, because it was still supporting most of my body weight. Instead of the familiar click - a sound I had never really thought about before - there was silence and the button would not budge. In all likelihood, it was only a matter of a few extra seconds, but for some reason, being temporarily imprisoned by my belt panicked me more than everything else that had just transpired, and I became aware of the cold sweat under my sweatshirt. Finally, I managed to support part of my weight by pulling against the mangled steering wheel and I heard that unbuckling sound again.
A then found myself standing next to my Jeep at the bottom of the ravine. The dust trail seemed to stretch for a mile behind me at least a hundred feet into the sky. It was a very curious sensation to be standing up but with the same view of my driver's seat as one might have lying sideways across the two front seats. My first reaction was to pat myself down, checking to make sure that all my limbs were still fully attached to the rest of my body. Still spitting out small parts of the terrain, I found the rear view mirror a few feet from my Jeep and picked it up to check my face: other than a few scratches and one chipped tooth, I seemed to have escaped any worse damage.
My hair, on the other hand, would likely require some expert rehabilitation; if it was possible to extract all the shrubbery - and who knows what else - from my hair without cutting it out, it would not be possible to accomplish without professional assistance. Some of the twigs were was so tightly entwined that it looked almost as though I had paid someone to attach them to my hair professionally, like hair extensions by Greenpeace. After realizing that I was intact physically, I began looking around for my belongings, which were strewn over a much greater area than one would think a small shoulder bag could possibly hold enough things to cover. Considering everything that had just happened, my belongings were in better shape than I would have expected, except coated in sand and gravel. I recognized the button that had been lost several months earlier; lying right there on the ground next to my Jeep and I suddenly remembered all the time I had wasted looking for it in and around the laundry machines.
It had been a long time since I had been able to wear that sweater, because the buttons were uniquely matched to its textile design, with swirls that perfectly complemented the overall color scheme. For just a moment, I forgot about my destroyed Jeep, my other belongings, my bumps and bruises, the chipped tooth that would require at least minor dental reconstruction at major cost, my hair, and even about all my pages of semester notes blowing across the highways like just so much roadside trash. At that moment, I was just looking forward…