John Lennon got out of his rusty, beaten BMW and looked for any damage. He seemed relaxed and not the least bit irritated. When he turned toward me and shrugged, the illusion almost faded, but not entirely. Lennon wore jeans and a sweater of the same brown-gray color.
It was June 18, 2001. My cat, Pascal, had a strange injury that I couldn’t properly describe to the vet. But I needed to bring him in. Before I came home and found him, unable to walk, I already had a feeling something wasn’t right. While I was out, I had seen a dead cat on John Street, hit by a car no more than a few minutes ago. A crying woman was knocking on people’s doors to find out whether it was their animal that had been killed. I don’t think she was the driver, but a concerned passer-by. This incident affected me, as if I gained a sense that many years of good luck and fine health for us and the cats were about to come to an end.
Pascal was in his carrier, next to me. He howled in a pained voice I had never heard from him before. I drove out of our alley on to Marion Street. As often, it was impossible to see other traffic because of all the parked cars. Luck did not favor me. I hit the slow, old BMW, probably somewhere on the driver’s side door. Maybe “hit” is too strong a term. Both cars weren’t going all that fast. They touched. But it was definitely my oversight that was responsible.
I rolled my window down and apologized. Lennon said, “This is a very old car. I can’t even tell if there’s a new scratch or ding on it. There are so many already.” He didn’t have John Lennon’s accent. But his voice, in a relatively high range and slightly nasal, was convincing.
He looked at the car again and said, “Really, I’m not going to worry about it. You know how old this thing is?”
I explained about the cat and told him I was worried about him. Lennon said, “I’m sorry to hear that—I hope your cat, you know. I hope your cat will be fine.” He spoke very slowly, with long pauses.
“Thank you, I appreciate it,” I said.
Lennon got back in his car and slowly drove off, heading east. I never saw him in our neighborhood again.
I often imagined what my reaction in his position might have been like. It’s possible that I might have been gracious like he was, but it is just as likely that I would have been angry, cursing the other driver and showing my most unpleasant side. In many situations, you never really know who and what you are until they happen.
Later, I found not one scratch on my Honda Civic.
The cat had heart disease and suffered something like a stroke. We gave him several medications, several times a day, and he had to go to a specialized vet many times. He lived for another nine months, a mostly horrible time for him and us. If this happened again, I don’t know if I would make the same decisions regarding the animal’s care, unless veterinary medicine had better options to offer than back then.
I have not hit another car since that day. It’s not likely that I would meet somebody else as forgiving and supportive as John Lennon.