Last Friday - February the 27th - was my one year anniversary of being a licensed driver. It did not go past unnoticed by me, when the road into our town was still blocked off I was using my driver's license a couple of times a day to get in and out. I meant to blog about it, but as so often happens the blog post dropped half formed out of my mind.
So a year has gone by and most of the time I am just a lady who drives. I am still hyper aware on the freeway and at night, and - I thought - when it's raining.
There's two ways into St Andrews - one is via Hurstbridge and the other is via Panton Hill. For those of you intending to stalk me one day my route of choice is generally via Panton Hill, the road is wide and the bends are generally gracious. The Hurstbridge road disconcerts me. It has an 80km/h speed limit, which many locals see as a challenge, many tight bends and blind corners and it's narrow in places, narrow enough that meeting the school bus coming the other way never fails to alarm me. Today as I was leaving an appointment with the optometrist I hesitated at the roundabout, rain streaming down my windscreen, and considered for a moment taking a long detour to avoid this experience. No no, I told myself. You're a fine driver. You'll be fine. There wasn't much on the road. It's not uncommon to have something sit right on your tail going up the Hurstbridge road, and you can hear them thinking evil thoughts at you as you slow down to 40 at every turn. As I passed the turn off to Strathewen a silver van pulled out behind me. Perhaps, without thinking, I sped up a little, so as not to slow them down. The strange thing is that moments later they simply vanished. I guess they must have pulled into a driveway. Perhaps my eyes played a trick on me and when I saw them turning right in the rear vision mirror they really turned left. Do eyes do that?
I thought I was driving carefully. I must have approached the corner to fast. I must have braked instinctively as I was making the turn. I know I do this sometimes, and I know I shouldn't. Even as the car hit the barrier I didn't quite believe I was having an accident. Then I was flung across the road, then I was being tugged by some invisible force through the gravel gutters on the other side. I had no sense of being in control of the car (though somehow I managed to bring it back to the right side of the road and achieve a fairly decent, safe-ish park). It was like I was no longer driving the car, but some instrument that responded to its will. The steering wheel steered me, pulled my arms up and down like I was a puppet. A spooky puppet, with a silenced voice trapped inside. I had all sorts of coherent thoughts, it was just that the way they were strung together didn't make much sense. I ploughed down one of those little white poles with its tiny rectangle of red reflective plastic. Well, I say I ploughed it down, which makes it sound like I had a say in the matter, that I was an agent acting from will, that I had some reason to cause it harm and I didn't, honestly, I have always been inexplicably fond of those white posts, those reflective squares. They are part of the roadscape of my childhood. I spent a lot of my childhood on roads, wandering. In fact, aesthetically speaking, roads are one of my favourite things in the world. At one stage I wondered if this was the way I was going to die, which on reflection seems overly dramatic. Having said that, if I'd met something coming the other way, clipping along at 80km/h... Well. Let's not go there.
Of course I am fine. I probably should have mentioned that already.
So I turned the key and turned off the engine and sat for a moment. I got out and had a look at the little blinded eyes where the lights had been (they'd been taken out on both sides) and the big fold in the bonnet where the lid no longer fit. I seem to remember wandering on a bit, just a few steps, and then I waved down a car. A kindly lady stopped (later I found out she had once been a high school teacher, and she retained this air about her) and we stood together and wondered what I should do. Neither of us had a phone. She took me to her house just down the road and I called Martin. He was out walking with Una in the rain, but a friend of ours had met him on the road and he drove Martin and Una back to our place to get the second car and Martin set out to rescue me.
The accident must have happened at about 11.45 this morning because as I waited for Martin it turned twelve. The husband of the lady who rescued me collects clocks. At twelve they all began to chime, each of them with their own set of bells. It was beautiful and eerie and poetic. Time. Time. When the accident began time began to bend, everything seemed to happen so slowly and yet there was no time to act. Time to think a thousand separate thoughts, but no time to bail out, no chance to pause, rewind, [APPLE +Z] UNDO, start over, do it properly. Time. A dozen separate bells, maybe more, all chiming for the same hour, but not quite synchronous, to make a music of sorts, or a poem, or a nonsense. Five minutes or so later the lady's husband showed up, with various family members fresh from the airport (from Tasmania of course because stories must be neat in their details), including two small grandsons. I was surreal to them, an oddity in this scene of homecoming. Only another five minutes and then I was gone, leaving oonly a small flurry of strangeness and re-explanations in my wake (you always retell the tale when the stranger is gone).
Information not available to me: where was the silver van? This is my story, but even your own story withholds details. It took me back to another story, fun times, eleven years ago. Another crash. This car beyond repair and the other guy was taken off in an ambulance. This one, as crashes go, was better.
Just after I had the accident (actually around the same time the accident was occurring) we heard of some money coming to us that will more than cover the repairs. Strange how these things occur. Una is quite cross with me for crashing the car and Fred is disappointed that she couldn't see it, it was already with our mechanics by the time she came home, Martin said they were gleefully ready to start ripping pieces of it as he left. Martin is just happy I am safe. And I am. I am safe. I am fine.