Wednesday 23 February 2011


It was odd witnessing people’s reactions to the latest crash at the bottom of Clark Street where it meets Dennon Road. Maybe odd is not the right word but disconcerting. It is a dangerous spot, the third crash to occur in little under a week. Something needed to be done. Maybe something couldn’t be, or, more likely, wouldn’t be. Money is all, and the cost effectiveness of changing the roads to avoid such crashes in the future would be examined and would inevitably be found wanting. We have become used to justifying health and safety risks in monetary terms. The people with the money will nod and smile to all, giving the illusion of caring, all the while their hand will be behind their back, keeping a tight grip on their wallet. People die every day, but money is money.
Everyone I spoke to that afternoon mentioned it. Did you see the Crash? And yes I said that I had. I watched it for several seconds before looking away. It is not that I don’t care, but then I don’t feel that most, with their eager, searching eyes, actually do care. They get a jolt from their voyeurism. Would there be a body? Morbid curiosity you could call it. For me it brings to mind Larkin’s poem Ambulances. They watch because it brings closer to home the inevitable, ‘All streets in time are visited’. And our fear, our dark and unavoidable, yet repressed, fear that there but for the grace of God go we. I turn away. Not because I do not care but because it is not my horror to bear. I’ve seen enough horrors to last me a lifetime and know that ultimately I will see many more. Such is the way of things. There is no room in my head or my heart to suffer a horror that is not mine. Perhaps that makes me sound harsh, but I don’t believe I am. I care. Too much, sometimes, and I could not look into the face of a person being carried on a stretcher and not carry that image with me thereafter. You cannot ever unsee anything. So selfishly, sometimes, I choose not to see. If I could help it would be different, it is different. But I could not; therefore the deal is done for me.
I have enough ghosts in my head. I am in no hurry for them to have company.
I remember watching the light leaving my friends eyes, on a sunny July day a long time ago. I remember, years later, the last look behind at my friend’s dreamy morphine hazed eyes staring into a distance soon to come that only he could see. I remember the soft, warm embrace of my friend that last day I saw her well, and my pain at wanting to never let her go, keep her safe, and my pain at knowing that I had to let go. You always face the end alone. I remember holding the hand of my Grampa, the grip so weak, as tears of regret rolled down his face. I remember the sound my Grandfather’s oxygen tank made as he drew in each agitated, tiny gasp.
I have enough ghosts in my head. I am in no hurry for them to have company.
So yes, sometimes I turn away. It is for others to grieve on this occasion. I have my sanity to think of and the halting pain of another is no spectacle to me. It is not sensational. Morbid curiosity counts for some, but sheer fascination surrounding our deepest fears counts for more. For some, it is it is the lack of such real experiences that accounts for their viewing. Some are unaccustomed to the adrenaline rush that follows. Some, like dear old Mike and Jim, watch in an effort to fix. Their nature is to try and fix and prevent, watchful guardians of the Mills that they are. Their concern on this day is the only one I can stomach, coming from that place of care, and I make them hot, strong tea whilst they debate in serious tones the practical application of preventative measures. (Yes they are diamonds, and I will miss them one day when I do leave the place that it is their home.) Some watch to control, as if the passive act of watching and the retaining of facts surrounding the event could offset the horror. For me, I wait until the ambulance shuts its doors and departs. Sirens off, which is never a good sign. I wait for the silence to descend once again and I stand and stare into the night.
For similar reasons I cannot really explain, I find comfort in the blue lights that flicker across my consciousness and through the window panes as the ambulances leave their station next to my home. Sirens silenced until out of residential areas, until they are required to yell to burrow their way through the traffic. The eerie reminder of the cycle of horrors ticking over nightly, like a heartbeat. I prefer their silence to their wails. Maybe it is because it is in those moments of silence that you can remember your own losses, and my silence is my respect to all those losses, all that pain, that which is mine, and that which belongs to others.

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