Lancaster, Laura Randolph, Ebony
On Her Public Troubles, Private Joys & Sudden Desire For A Baby
EVEN now she can't remember. Not just the details of the car accident that forever changed her life. What Halle Berry insists she can't remember about the collision in which she was involved last February is the accident itself.
The collision isn't just a blur, Halle says; it's a blank. Though she has tried repeatedly to recall what happened, she says she has "not a clue how I got from driving from my friend's house to being a bloody mess with a crashed car." Though Halle has accepted the judgment of doctors that, because of the head injury she suffered in the accident--a bond-deep gash to her forehead that required 20 stitches to close--she may never remember, she acknowledges that she did leave the crash site before authorities arrived. Which is why, she says, she agreed to plead no contest to a misdemeanor charge of leaving the scene of a traffic accident.
"It was important for me as the woman I say that I am to take some responsibility," says Halle of the accident in which the driver of the other vehicle broke her wrist. "I think that was the right thing for me to do."
What she didn't think was the right thing for her to do was to plead guilty. "To be guilty I had to have knowingly and willfully left that scene, and I did not do that," says Halle who, in May, was ordered by a Beverly Hills judge to perform 200 hours of community service and to pay a $5,000 fine, plus court and other costs totaling $13,500. "I did the best I could given what happened to me, and I was woman enough to take responsibility for my physical actions even though I did not intentionally do it."
Until the misdemeanor charge was issued, however Halle says her life was "a living hell." For one thing, she faced the very real possibility that she would face felony hit-and-run charges and go to jail. For another, while authorities investigated the accident, she became the target of venomous rumor-mongering that charged her with everything from driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs (investigators concluded that there was no evidence of either) to being involved in other hit-and-run accidents (allegations which were thoroughly investigated and found to be untrue).
"Those days of waiting to know my fate were just indescribable," she says. "I didn't eat. I didn't sleep. I just could not face life."
More than anyone, Halle knows how incredible her total lack of recall seems. "I know people find it hard to believe because I couldn't believe it, and it happened to me," she says referring not just to the accident, but to the fact that she drove herself home afterward. "I was filled with more whys and hows than anybody because I had to live through it and explain it. I would sit for hours and hours hoping and praying that something would jog my memory."
Nothing has and, if what the experts have told Halle is right, it is unlikely anything ever will. "Now that I understand medically what happened to me, I know that people who suffer head injuries like mine often suffer [permanent] memory loss," she says. "So I have had to accept that as the only explanation I am ever going to get."
She also has had to accept her doctor's judgment that the scar on her forehead is, in all likelihood, permanent. "I've had a plasticsurgery procedure to straighten it out," reveals Halle, who may have to undergo more surgery because her skin develops keloids easily. "I have six months to wait to see how it's going to heal."
While Halle doesn't pretend she isn't conscious of the scar ("I have a really good makeup artist," she says with a wink), for a woman known the world over for her heart-stopping beauty, she seems surprisingly accepting of the flaw.
"Beauty is not just physical," she says. "It's about what you stand for, how you live your life. And as long as I don't veer too far off from the woman I want to be, then I don't think this"--she runs her finger over the mark--"can make me any less of what I was before I got it. …