Not Having to Hear I’m Sorry

Teresa M. Elguezabal - Baltimore, Maryland
Entered on January 7, 2011
  • Listen to This I Believe on RadioPublic

  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

For years I had craved his apology. Though he’d stopped his car and waited with me on the road until the ambulance arrived; he’d never contacted me during my five years of recovery. From investigation reports, I’d learned he was a physician—someone who had taken the oath, “first do no harm.” Yet he’s the reason I set off airport security alarms with my metal implants.

Finally, I called him. “I’m the pedestrian at Charles Street,” was all I said.

“OH, MY GOD,” he grunted, as if I’d stabbed him.

“I want to talk about the accident.”

“Yes, we can . . .But how are you?”

“I don’t remember that day, or the three months after…”

I’d lived through a seven-month hospitalization (two months on life-support), relied for years on personal care attendants, endured orthopedic surgeries, and shuffled with a walker and later a cane, eventually achieving substantial recovery.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I should have talked to you sooner.”

That’s all he was sorry for?

 

Together in his doctor’s office, he said, “I’m sorry for the accident.”

As our conversation progressed, he was “sorry the accident occurred,” as if I’d been hit by a natural disaster. He repeated that the green light had been in his favor—the same statement he’d made to police.

But, regardless of right of way, you don’t slam a car into a pedestrian in the crosswalk.

As it turned out, we had much in common. His wife, like my daughter, is half-Mexican. Eventually, he said, “I’m sorry I hurt you and your daughter.”

My response: a rude stare. Then I said, “I’m sorry too, for crossing the street when I did.”

As I left his office, he repeated, “I’m sorry I hurt you.”

I pressed my lips, didn’t respond.

My excuse was inadequate vocabulary. To say “I accept your apology” or “That’s okay” seemed trivial. Disappointment haunted me. What now?

One morning, I awoke whimpering. In a dream, I’d embraced  the driver, but he hadn’t reciprocated. His arms hung like empty sleeves. With my chin over his shoulder, I spoke reassuringly to him. Then muffled sobs crowded my throat. I was a wounded animal trapped within myself. Taking paper and pen, I wrote my words from the dream.

The driver graciously agreed to meet again. Back in his office, I recited my words from my dream. “My life is good now. Not the life I used to have. But I can do most everything I want. Sure, I can’t work, but I was a lawyer for 26 years. I now have time to enjoy my grandkids and take piano and swim lessons. You can stop saying ‘I’m sorry.’”

His mouth softened, and he said, “I want you to find peace.”

My shoulders relaxed. I had freed myself from the headlock of rancor and self-pity. Forgiving restored my soul, and—like a miracle—lightened the crookedness in my legs.  This I believe.