Prism of Impact

Audrey Burges


The front bumper of an SUV doesn’t have a color when you see it coming, or if it does, it’s colored in the sense that synesthesia colors music: the sense of color as a verb, and the verb is MOVE.

Your body is quicker than you expect but slower than you need.

When you’re hit, the sensation also has a color, and the color is purple. It swims across your vision, so visceral that when the officer in the ambulance asks you “what color was the car,” you say purple, then shake your head to dislodge something you know, objectively, to be untrue.

“It was white,” you say. “And it didn’t stop.”

You piece together jagged piles of impressions. Twelve people pedaled a mobile tiki bar, red shirts beneath green palms above white calves working in unison, pink arms clanking raucous mugs together. For you, raucousness meant allowing one more episode of Daniel Tiger before bed. You stretched your Rip Van Winkle limbs, remembering that people still gather and drink and hit each other’s backs too hard, all while rolling themselves down the street you must cross to meet your friend for dinner. You squinted toward the white stick man trapped in his black “WALK” sign before your brown eyes followed the tiki bar.

The SUV followed it too, and that’s the only reason you saw it run the red light.


The thud announced you were too slow: another failure to be nimble, another item on your to-do list you’ve failed to achieve. The thud adds new items. You are late for dinner. Your watch is buzzing an emergency. Your phone is calling 911. Your husband and mother are texting you. A teal-sundressed woman is asking you a question, watching you cradle your own hand as you chant I’m sorry, I can fix it, I’ll be okay? Your upward lilt becomes a scream when you try to pull your own finger into joint. The sensation is blinding: whiter than the shawl the woman wraps around you, whiter than the jackets of the paramedics you beg her not to bother, whiter than the crosswalk lines that crystallize around your dreams, hissing: You are an inconvenience.

But you don’t defend yourself, don’t whisper I could have died, because that’s why it happened, after all. You were in someone’s way. As colorless as glass.


Audrey Burges writes in Richmond, Virginia. Her debut novel, The Minuscule Mansion of Myra Malone, will be published in 2023 by Berkley/PRH, and her work also appears or in McSweeney’s, Hobart, Cease, Cows, HAD, Fudoki Magazine, Into the Void, SlackjawThe Belladonna, and other outlets. More of her writing is available at, and you can follow her on Twitter: @Audrey_Burges.