by Leona Lee Cully
The car just pulls out in front of me, from a side road, and I can’t believe this is going to happen. The moment stretches as I brake and steer the car to the left. I see the old man’s face when he finally turns to look to his right.
Shocked and disbelieving, a mirror of my own face. Our eyes wide in horror.
In the same way that I have had impossibly elaborate dreams when I faint for a only few moments, my soul rages and pushes against the skin of time.
I can’t die now because I have to collect my daughter from the child-minder. No one knows how to soothe her the way I do. How to ease the little secret knot of tension on her brow by tracing a line down to the tip of her nose.
I can’t die now because I am closer to fifty than forty, and I have never known a great love, or a great job, or any kind of security. All I own is this car that is hurtling towards another mass of metal, another frail form of flesh and bone.
The mistakes I have made will never be undone.
My brother. The lost one. Our family sacrificed him as we grew around the secrets we harboured like deformed trees. His anguish played out with tantrums, thefts, fires, drink and drugs. None of us know where he is and now I will never begin the search for him. The sisters I rarely see. Our parents desolate, each in a separate hell of alcoholism, on opposite sides of the country. In all their years of drinking and driving they never crashed into another car, only the front gate of our house.
The father of my child. A stranger to her, oblivious of her nature. He will hand her over to his parents and continue playing his music. He will visit her, a charming stranger, bearing generous gifts which will never disguise the blankness within him.
She will pine for me and then forget me. An image pixelated by the passing of time.
She doesn’t know the smell of a field in summer rain or how to look for the white nubs of mushrooms in the damp grass. The taste of blackberries fresh from their thorns. The small pleasures of my rural childhood were the only heirlooms I had to pass on to her. I left them wrapped up in memory like the objects my mother hoards in her rooms. Chipped cups laced with dust-heavy cobwebs. Mildewed clothes. Newspapers and magazines stacked high, brittle as desiccated wings.
Someone is screaming and crying. I can smell something burning and my wrists feel like they are broken.
Time snaps back into place.
I manage to open my seatbelt and escape the car. People gather to console me, tell me it’s not so bad. It was the airbags exploding that caused the smell, the wounds to my hands. The man is still in his car but they tell me that he is fine.
Phones are used. An ambulance is called. I talk to my child-minder, and to my daughter.
My tears abate.
The dust settles again.