I feel warmth first then, as the blur over my vision clears, I see her shape, the smile on her face, the brown hair, hazel eyes, and the tilt of her head. She’s rubbing the back of my hand.
“You’re okay, Mr. Shaw, you’ve been involved in an accident. Just relax please.” She reassures, patting the back of my hand.
I’m hearing the word repeat itself in my head…accident? Her voice repeating out there somewhere, hollow and distant, yet she’s right here, right by my side, holding my hand. Is there pain? I try to feel for pain, but feel only numbness, paralyzed?
“You’re fine, Mr. Shaw,” she says, perhaps sensing my panic. “We’ve given you a little something to help you relax, okay? You might feel slightly panicked, perhaps not feel your legs, but everything is as it should be, do you understand?”
It isn’t exactly reassuring, but I nod. Try as I might I cannot feel any sensation in my legs. I can, however, feel my hand being held, so why no feeling in my legs? I try to remain calm. My head is reeling but she said, everything is okay, no need to panic, just keep calm. I feel a coldness descend.
“Mr. Shaw….. Mr. Shaw,” she repeats, awakening me out of these scary thoughts, “we have someone here who wants to ask you a few questions, do you feel up to it?”
“Sure, I think I’m okay. I am okay, aren’t I?”
“Of course you are. I’ll be right here, Mr. Shaw.” She smiles and beckons with a movement of her head. I grip her hand with my fingers. A man is at the side of the bed.
“Hello Mr. Shaw, I’m sorry to see you this way, I’m afraid I have to ask you some questions. The nurse tells me you’re doing okay, out of danger. That’s good.”
Out of danger!
“I can’t feel my legs, do you know that?”
The nurse chimes in…
“You will, Mr. Shaw, I promise you, perhaps a few minutes, that’s all, and your legs will be fine. Please relax and just answer the policeman’s questions.”
Policeman? I look at his uniform, cap help under his right arm, notebook in his left hand, white shirt, black tie, smart. I feel a shrink of cool enter into my stomach.
“Do you remember anything of the accident, Mr. Shaw?” He asks, looking down at his notebook, pencil poised.
“No, sir, I don’t.”
“Do you recall leaving home?”
I’m still conscious that I have no feeling in my lower body. I can hardly think straight at all.
“No…no…I’m afraid I don’t.”
“You do know who you are, correct?”
“Richard Shaw, yes.”
“And your address, sir?”
“17 Ragland Square, San Francisco.”
The policeman leans toward the woman. I hear a whispering sound, like a moth caught in my head. I try to look back, pushing my neck into the pillow, straining my eyeballs till they hurt, upwards to see what they are doing, but cannot see them. Just hear the fluttering of mouths speaking inaudibly.
“Mr. Shaw, I have to tell you some sad news I’m afraid. The car you were driving…it mounted a pavement near your home. I’m afraid a mother and a child were killed.”
The pressure of blood going to my brain immediately reverses its flow, sluicing down my neck, away from my head. Nausea overtakes my stomach. I feel a blue depth approaching as this news washes over me.
“Mr. Shaw…Mr. Shaw…It’s okay, gently now…gently…you’re okay….and again I can feel her hand gripping mine. I hold onto it tightly.
Oh my God, my head is exploding, barking bouts of pain are entering and leaving my gut in cycles of agony. My brain can hardly control the thought, running wild, why…why me…what happened?
The nurse helps tilt my head forward. I sip at the water, feel the coolness, but I can’t swallow. The surplus spills from my mouth, seeping passed my lips, running down my neck, and forming a puddle in the well below my Adam’s apple.
“Try to relax your body, Mr. Shaw, you’re having a hard time breathing. In…out…in and out…keep in time with me please, big breath in…now out…and again…in…and out, that’s better, keep that going.”
She signals the policeman over. “You can continue now.” She squeezes my hand.
“Do you recall using a cell phone at any time, Mr. Shaw?”
I feel a sudden drift of guilt. Did I have my cell phone? I try to imagine myself at the wheel, see the cell phone.
“No, sir, I do not recall a cell phone?”
“Eye witnesses say you were seen driving without due care, you were using a cell phone. You definitely don’t recall this?”
There’s a deep and dark resonance to his voice. He believes I did recall and not admitting to it. It’s in the timbre of his voice, the inference of his accent and the emphasis on the word ‘definitely’. A mother and a child dead. A fog thickens before my eyes. I feel profoundly alone and afraid. I’m alive and a mother and child are dead because I’d used a cell phone while driving. How could this destruction have happened to me, to them, innocently standing, walking, playing, when my car smashes into them? My thoughtless act. The cell phone. A call…to…who…why…what could’ve been so important that I risked such havoc and death for a phone call?
The lamp above my head appears distant. I feel far…far underground. What a senseless world, a phone call. I wasn’t drunk. I wasn’t on drugs or medication, I’d been using the cell phone and somehow driven my car into a woman and child. Nothing makes sense.
“Do you have a reading there, nurse?”
It’s a distant question, somewhere out there, but audible. I turn my head.
“Yes, Mr. Tomlin, it’s a good reading. I think we’re done here.” She replies.
“Good, I’m meeting with my wife this evening, it’s our twentieth wedding anniversary.”
“Congratulations…here, let me take that jacket from you.”
The nurse slides the jacket from his shoulders. I feel my leg twitch.
“Let me have a look, please….” The Policeman, now in shirtsleeves, wrenches the paper from the printing machine. “Hmmm… quite good, good enough, I’ll sign him off and if you don’t mind I’ll make my way home, the traffic will be building up soon.”
Blood is flushing down into my legs. My head is clearing to sounds; perfect sound, no echo, not sense of the noise being far off.
“Do you feel you can swing your legs off the gurney?”
Her voice isn’t the same tender voice that has just reassured me. It seems ordinary, not distant. I hear traffic. I hear people talking outside the door.
“You’ll be remembering why you came now, Mr. Shaw.” She says, busily signing papers at a desk.
I look round, feeling half drunk, feeble, and slightly nervous. I’d left home…yes, it was beautiful, crisp, a great morning to get my first driving license!
“Don’t worry, you’ve passed. You now have your full driving license. You’ve passed the simulated accident scenario. Your guilt level is excellent.” She holds toward me a paper sheet. “Just hand this to the receptionist when you leave. If you need a cup of tea, the receptionist will get you one, and there’s a waiting room if you still feel a little unsteady.”