It was the morning of the accident (again).
Daniel’s mother lay in her tiny bed in her tiny bedsit, legs clasped to her chest in the best approximation of sleep that her brain would currently facilitate. The dream was set on loop, it had devoured her piece by piece until she had become unidentifiable. Sleep was nothing more than a conduit.
She was in the car on the way to the Royal Free hospital with Daniel performing a passable breast stroke in the amniotic fluid of her womb and Saul, her eldest son, sat in the back seat singing to himself.
Daniel’s mother experienced the world as if her eyes were covered by a veil woven from the silk of poisonous spiders. Written words fell from her ears like tiny font shaped raindrops, traffic lights fired coloured lies into her hair which she could never wash out, zebra crossings were gateways to heaven and hades. Some would have considered this a handicap to driving, but Daniel’s mother had checked the Highway Code only that morning and since there was no mention of any of these hazards she considered that she was good to go.
Saul resided in the rear view mirror and that was how she remembered him, in reverse, imprisoned in a letterbox of glass. His eyes fell on hers, it was all he could offer her from where he sat. They were the eyes of a child who is blind to the inadequacies of the human condition. Returning to the road she saw too late that she had gone straight through a red light and a bus was baring down on her like a open jawed lion, inches from it’s prey. She slammed her feet onto the brake and the accelerator at the same time and the Austin Allegro, performed a vehicular pirouette , avoiding the bus by the width of a coat of paint and sailing through the intersection to the other side. And all the while, Saul’s smiling eyes, oblivious, and unquestioning, kissed hers.
She pulled over to the side of the road scattering a cluster of pedestrians like a pile of protesting autumn leaves caught by a sudden gust of wind. Daniel completed another length of breast stroke with a back flip and kicked out with both feet to launch himself forwards once again into the dark waters of their mutual DNA. She could see his heels push out of the fabric of her smock and gasped at the audacity of the pain. The cramps which had been staccato had now assumed the rapidity and volume of machine gun fire.
She turned around in her seat and reached out a hand for her little man. Sometimes she dreamt that she had held him, in those few moments, felt him breath laughter onto her face, that she had warned him about the treachery of life, how to navigate the forests of carrots and sticks. But she could no more reach him now that she did then.
She touched her legs, warm and cold at the same time. Her waters had broken. She looked into the face of the traffic warden who was screaming at her through her driver’s window, at the taxi driver, at the policeman. She was a goldfish and this was her bowl - she swam for their entertainment and within her Daniel swam no more.
She pulled into a line of slow moving traffic without prior warning, hitting the rear bumper of a camper van and turned into the path of an oncoming motorcyclist who hit the passenger side of her car and crumpled onto the unforgiving tarmac. She had to reach the hospital but she no longer knew what a hospital was, it was a word, a destination which was all around her. The contractions were unendurable, she was giving birth in the driver’s seat of an Austin Allegro whilst driving at speed down the pavement of Haverstock Hill. Had it been 1965 she would have reached the Accident and Emergency department of the Royal Free hospital with seconds to spare, but it was not 1965 and someone had put a supermarket in her way.
The Austin Allegro entered Budgens through the main window, ruining the two for one disinfectant display and continued through the fruit and vegetable isle towards the delicatessen. Impeded by a tower high display of Ferraro Rocher and the deputy supermarket manager who had climbed it shortly before the car took out the National Lottery stand, the car eventually came to a halt in the middle of a Star Wars promotion. It had stopped because Daniel’s mother had finally applied the breaks and because the engine had fallen out when the car totaled R2D2. When she looked down, she saw Daniel’s head had begin to emerge from between her legs.
Saul had stopped singing.
It was not anticipated, when the Star Wars advertising promotion was designed, that Luke Skywalker would be hit by an Austin Allegro travelling at 40 miles per hour through the fruit and vegetable isle of Budgens in Belsize Park. No consideration was given therefore, to the possibility that the Jedi Knight’s lightsaber would smash through the side window of a car and strike a child with such force that it would stop his heart.
There were so many people swimming in Daniel’s mother’s fishbowl now - she screamed until she thought her lungs would implode but she could not make a sound. Constrained by her seatbelt, shoulders dusted with broken glass and Saul, his first kiss, his wedding day when he could not stop laughing, his own children, whose faces mirrored his sleeping sigh, smashed into tiny pieces.
The light had gone out behind his eyes and she could not remember how to put it back.