Am I dead?
Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on May 4, 2010
What? where? who? slipped vaguely through my barely conscious mind as I came to. There were no answers available. As I started to lift my head, I couldn’t imagine where I was. I was lying down; I might be dreaming. I saw sky above. I was outside. I wasn’t in my bed. I wanted to get up, find out. In a sudden panic, I realized I didn’t know who I was. I felt like I was still dreaming. A name, I must have a name. Now that was scary. I was awake and thinking, but I didn’t know anything. I remember telling myself: Just lay here. Relax. Let it come. It was like trying to remember something on the tip of my tongue: think of something else, don’t think about what it was I’d forgotten. I closed my eyes.
I remembered the construction site, being pushed into the hole above an unfinished cellar, waking up to pain, being carried across a field, blood on my face, getting stitches above my eye. I remembered standing outside the tree house, trying to cover a hole in the roof on a rainy day, slipping, falling, coming to with a terrible sharp pain in my arm, the visiting relatives in our house, the ride to the hospital, the plaster cast.
It came back to me. Pumping my bicycle down that hill, hell-bent for speed. Traffic. Lots of traffic, rush hour traffic. A whole lane to myself. I had been keeping up, moving fast. An unseen car on my left was trying to cut across traffic into a driveway I don’t know was there, just to my right. It was practically touching me as I looked into a woman’s face: wide open eyes, slack mouth.
So, I was – in the street, still. Somehow I’d survived. I opened my eyes to a grey-blue sky. I knew who I was, forgot that I’d forgotten. I saw firemen sitting in lawn chairs outside the firehouse across the street. They appeared to be laughing at something, but I couldn’t hear them.
But, there were vague noises and voices, somewhere else, behind me, yes, and yards away. I was alone in an empty circle of asphalt.
“I saw the whole thing,” I heard a man say – I could hear an eager concern in his voice – “It wasn’t your fault. I’ll testify in court for you.” Now, why would someone say that? I wondered. I’d had the right of way.
Someone else – I remember a deep gravelly voice – asked, “What about him?”
“Him? He’s dead,” another voice answered, flatly and certainly.