The grass is green, a potent green. Each blade a vibrant toothpick of colors. There are kids running through it. There’s a mother walking her dog on the other side of the street and a man fetching his mail. The world is full of substance, while I am hollow.
I’ve never known someone who died before. I’ve never experienced the passing of an estranged uncle or great grandparent, whom had been vacant from my life and knowledge. I’ve never had a pet cruelly crushed as they crossed the street, or unceremoniously flushed down a porcelain grave. My first experience with death, involved someone very close to me. Someone who I didn’t expect to leave me so prematurely. I thought I’d cry, I thought I’d be angry, but I’m just numb. There’s an emptiness to me as an individual. I don’t want to watch TV. I don’t want to talk to anyone. I guess I just want to stop existing until this is all over.
I was sitting at a café with my friend Lucas when we got a call from his girlfriend. One of our friends, Jonah, was in an accident. He’d been driving the mustang down highway 45 last night.
According to her, he didn’t see the other car till the last minute. Swerved out the way. Lost control. His car collided with a barrier. It’s front bonnet obliterated by the impact. His chest crushed as he was thrown forward into the steering wheel and instrument panel. Shards of glass spearing his face at 120 kilometres an hour. I found out every detail about how it happened. I went and saw his car. I went and saw where it happened… But I didn’t go and see him.
His car was a wreck, but the people who knew him were a far bigger wreck. I couldn’t face seeing him, I couldn’t face seeing anyone. At least the car could be fixed. I don’t know if I could say the same about the rest of us. He died that day. Just saying, in case I didn’t make that clear enough.
We all loved cars. Spending long nights together working under the hood, covered in grease, a bowl of chips always nearby. We worked on Jonah’s car the most. He’d gotten lucky getting it for the price he did. It was a fixer upper. None of us really cared about our grades in school, and none of us had much else to do. So it was Jonah’s car, but it was our car. We talked about a lot of things while working on that car. Lucas told us how he lost his virginity on New Year’s. I opened up for the first time about how hard it was growing up without a mum. Jonah spoke rarely but vividly of how his Dad hit him. She brought us together. We’d take her out on the weekends, take turns driving her. We all sped a little too much, it got our adrenaline pumping. Those extra kilometers that we knew we weren’t allowed. Flirting with danger, and the Pigs. Lucas and I liked to go 20 or 30 kilometers over, but Jonah went a little too fast. Sometimes he’d go so fast that while sitting in the backseat the adrenaline would wear off and a nervous uncertainty would set in. Maybe we should have said something.
The mustang’s gone now. Lucas and I both had cars of our own, but I sold mine. We didn’t work on it as much as the mustang but Jonah had helped me modify mine a little bit. We’d worked on it together, just like the Jonah’s car. Every time I got in I’d look at the speedometer. I’d think about the mustang. I’d think about Jonah. Id slam on the brakes in the middle of the street, clutching my chest, panting hard, drowning. Everything felt so fast now. The doctors said they were panic attacks. I couldn’t drive to the end of the block without having one. So I sold my car. I think I’ll just walk for a while. It gives you time to think. It gives you time to appreciate the extravagant greenness of the grass. Time to appreciate the admirable amount of weight the woman walking her dog has lost. Time to appreciate the unwavering positivity of the man fetching his mail. When you move slower it gives you time to be empty, time to be numb… and then time to move beyond that and slowly find things to cherish again. I think I need to take things slow.
By Chris Bowring