About the Accident: A Letter From Our Neighborhood Real Estate Agent

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A few weeks ago, the residents of the Evergreen neighborhood received the following e-letter:

Dear Friends,

On April 13, 2013, I was in the crosswalk at 36th Street and Falls Road when a driver in an SUV attempting to hit his brakes instead hit the accelerator. He went straight into me, dragging me to the other side of Falls Road and knocking a hole through the Hewitt-Jackson office. I was left pinned underneath until rescue workers could release me.

When I saw Ken’s sister’s name on the caller ID, I knew something was wrong but I thought it would be about their mom, who had been taken to the hospital a few days earlier.

“I have to go,” I told the person on the other line, “a good friend has been run over.” It sounded strange. One rarely uses the verb “run over” with the direct object “good friend.” Better “empty soda can” or even “squirrel.”

In the car driving downtown, I thought how life is one big Doctors Without Borders these days, no line of demarcation between the normal and the crisis, people struck down anywhere, anytime. Even without medical or other helpful skills, you have to be ready. To take the call, to believe the words, to show up at least. Stop on the way for a thing of chicken soup. Maybe you can help fill out some forms.

*

After I was taken to Shock Trauma, it was determined my left ankle was broken in three places, right lower leg in two and my right shoulder now has a metal plate keeping it attached. My pelvis was also cracked and I had my ear re-attached. I was in the hospital and rehabilitation center until late June.

I met Ken five years ago before I moved to Baltimore. A friend gave me his card and said, You will love him. He will find you a house.

Our first conversation had nothing to do with real estate. I told him everything bad that had just happened to me: the end of my marriage and my mother’s death just the tip of the iceberg. He had lost his grandmother and his brother and his live-in boyfriend had been deported to Colombia. We were in the same wrecked boat and glad for the company.

In our second conversation, conducted on the phone, we talked for over two hours about what I would want in a house. For the next six months, we looked and looked, careening around town in whatever car Ken was driving at the time. (He tends to go through them pretty quickly.) I fell in love with a converted school auditorium in Federal Hill. I fell in love with a house that was not yet built near Woodberry Kitchen, picturing a chair with my name on it at that sweet bar. Some were too expensive, some had no place for the dog, many were not in a good school district. Ken led me firmly on.

One day, we looked at a little place in Evergreen. I didn’t like it, it was too dark; I still couldn’t get my mind around the row-home shotgun layout. Later that day, Ken insisted we go back. He wanted to take a second look, even if I didn’t. He ran in ahead of me, switching on lights and opening blinds.

This time I realized it was perfect.

It should be noted that my weakness for gay guys is such that I once married one. And vice versa: one married me. Yet at the time I met Ken, the position of Gay BFF had been open for a while. Then I bought the little house in Evergreen, which was right around the corner from his, and we began our happy life with no delay. I made him ice cream sundaes and he tried to find me a boyfriend, though his candidates all got married or committed suicide before I could be introduced.

If the basement flooded, if I had a flat tire, if the electricity went out — there was no crisis for which Ken did not offer an expensive European cigarette. One time I had to go to the emergency room at 4 a.m. He seemed to think it was not too much to ask, though he wasn’t thrilled by the howls of pain.

For emotional suffering, he took me to the gay piano bar, brought me the booze and crackers left over from the open house, listened patiently to my drunken complaints. People like us, who don’t have boundaries high enough to hide our flaws, need each other. Except for a true connoisseur like my ex-husband, Ken knows my shortcomings as well as anyone, but unlike my ex, doesn’t seem to mind them.

*

Many of you have been to visit, have called or sent notes. If this accident is news to you, I am sorry I did not have a chance to get the word out to everyone.  I cannot tell you how fortunate I feel to be alive and to face full recovery.

It was nowhere near as bad as it could have been, but it was unimaginably long. Four weeks turned into six weeks turned into months. The movie “American Gangster” is famous in our home as the only one Ken ever watched all the way through. When he is bored, he leaves. Or checks Grindr on his phone to see if there’s anything luscious in the vicinity. I could only imagine how cranky he would get lying in bed for months with nothing to do.

I could not have been wronger about this. He was so patient. So philosophical. Such a good sport. He may have learned this from his mom, who immediately upon being released from her hospital room, came to sit in his.

Or maybe it is partly this: Our neurobiologist friend told me that when you fracture the biggest bones in your body you can have mini-strokes in the moments after, and these go unrecognized but might possibly make the person a little calmer, a little more able to lie in bed during the time of brokenness. Did Ken have a mini-stroke? Long before the accident he had trouble remembering names, sometimes even my name, his driving was erratic, and his handwriting completely illegible — so I guess we’ll never know. Fortunately his uncanny, almost savant, ability to match a person to their next home has survived intact.

*

Despite this terrible accident, with the help of my beloved manager and colleagues, I listed and sold six houses in the months while I was in the hospital. Now that I am home, I can be even more effective in helping both buyers and sellers. As always, I greatly appreciate your business and referrals! Do not hesitate to call. I hope you are enjoying a safe and fun summer. Stay cool!

Ken was on the way to a clients’ car to show them a house when he was hit. They saw the whole thing happen in their rearview. By the second week in the hospital he had contracts and inspection reports all over the bed and was on the phone making deals. This morning I saw him limping down the sidewalk with his deaf dog Adelaide to put up a For Sale sign in a neighbor’s yard. It is the work we have to do that keeps us alive. Ask the Doctors Without Borders. Ask me.

Some people think that if you are run over by a car, you will be set for life. That is not going to happen for our friend Ken Maher, it turns out, as the driver of the runaway SUV was an older Hampden resident without much insurance. Still, other good things might be in the offing. Thanks to various legislative changes, if all goes well, Ken will fly to South America and marry his long-lost deported boyfriend and bring him home to Maryland to live. What a party we will have when he arrives. If all goes well, the market will continue its rebound, our houses will become ever more valuable, our loved ones will come from afar to join us inside them. Our ears will be re-attached, every one.

Slowly but surely, recovery will be ours.

Marion Winik

Marion Winik

University of Baltimore Professor Marion Winik writes Bohemian Rhapsody on the first Wednesday of the month. She is the author of "First Comes Love," and, forthcoming in fall 2018, "The Baltimore Book of the Dead." She is the host of The Weekly Reader on WYPR. Sign up for her monthly email at marionwinik.com.
Marion Winik

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16 COMMENTS

  1. Great piece. Sorry I didn’t get to see you in asbury keep them coming. Your work is getting better and better. Love. Shelly djmal

  2. I was so happy when I opened my fishbowl screen and saw a new installment of Bohemian Rhapsody. I love every musing.

  3. Oh, Marion, how you weave a web of connection. I “know” Ken through your latest tales in “Highs in the Low Fifties.” I “know” your ex through “Above Us Only Sky”, and of course Tony in First Comes Love”. And through your engaging writing, your readers know you, so well, maybe too well?

    • Too well, as in beyond expectations of how much you can know about s person that you have met a few times, one time or even just through her writing. Sounds like the book is really doing well!

  4. Having read all of your books, read your articles, listened on NPR, I feel as though we’ve been through the war together–and survived!!!
    Keep it up
    JHP

  5. Thanks for the update on a good guy’s truly terrible misfortune. Those of us who have the pleasure of knowing Ken marvel at his fortitude and grace. Thanks to you, the circle of folks hoping for his speedy recovery has expanded exponentially.

  6. I love this! The intertwining voices, the beautiful ups and downs, and the ever hopeful ending are a true Winik masterpiece. Bravo!

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