Shortly before we left Los Angeles, around 8:30, Jimmie Fisher stepped out onto Railroad Avenue, a frontage road near Cabazon, and was hit by a car. His body was flung across the street. A man driving a truck stopped to see why the other car had stopped and his truck hit Fisher again, and then sped away. The California Highway patrol arrived and closed the road.
A news article reports that Fisher was jaywalking, but he was about 2000 feet or more from the closest crosswalk in a particularly pedestrian-unfriendly section of Cabazon. He was walking in the desert on a frontage road between the 10 Freeway and the railroad. There’s not much out there on that side of the freeway: a couple of old farmhouses, a failed subdivision reclaimed by the desert, the Arrowhead water factory and the Morongo Indian Reservation.
We didn’t know about Jimmie Fisher yet. We kept driving east.
Traffic slowed just past Etiwanda and I could see red and blue flashing lights ahead. An ambulance sped past us, and shortly after that a fire truck. As we drove past I looked away from the accident. I grow more tenderhearted as I age and my curiosity takes a back seat to my desire to prevent distressing images from claiming permanent residence in my head. Ken told me one car was on its side and someone was still inside.
“Oh, God! I saw a dead man on the road! Why don’t they cover him up?”
Jimmie Fisher laid out on Railroad Avenue for more than two hours without cover, for anyone driving by to see. I doubt it is the policy of the CHP to leave dead bodies exposed, to not cover them up, so my second question, after “Why don’t they cover him up?,” was “Who was Jimmie Fisher?” that the CHP felt him undeserving of the decency of cover? Was he homeless? Was he walking to the reservation? Why was he out walking alone in the desert at night?
It was an awful thing to see. It caught me in the gut, and I kept returning to the memory, the vision, again and again as if in returning I might discover something I could do to undo what had been done. But as I was pulled back throughout the evening to what I had seen, and through the following day, the vision began to fragment. I wondered if I had imagined it - my glance being so brief. The picture of the man began to disintegrate and the vision faded and was replaced with the words, the symbols: broken, crushed, bloodied, and my mind was increasingly spared the sight of the dead man.
We drove on. turning off onto the 62 and arrived at our cabin around 11:15 p.m. We drove the last two miles on bumpy dirt roads, and then turned up our bumpy dirt driveway. After we unpacked the car we pulled chairs out onto the porch and turned off all the lights. A warm, comforting wind grazed our shoulders as we looked up at the Milky Way. I couldn't help but wonder if Jimmie Fisher was still on his back, face up to the same stars, or if he had finally been given cover from the night.