Go left




























skidding car

















































We talked about how it might all end. Of course, it wasn’t time for that yet but we’d gone far enough to know that it couldn’t go on for ever. Nothing ever does. We were alive to all possible outcomes although, realistically, we knew there was little choice. We could stay together or part. We could live or die. We could make a futile gesture of self-sacrifice or leave it up to others to seal our fate. We were running out of options.

We kept ourselves busy looking for clues as to what might happen, searching for signs that would lead us towards the future.
This is how it goes:

– Can you tell when something is starting to go wrong?
– What do you mean?
– Are you alive to that instant when a good thing becomes a bad thing?
– I think so. I have very good hindsight.
– I’m not talking retrospectively here. I’m not asking if you are able to look back and locate that moment after which nothing was ever the same. I’m after that moment when everything is still good, when there is no hint that anything could be bad, but something tells you that from now on, nothing will ever be quite as good.
– I’m driving along a mountain road. It is a dirt road. I’m in a real hurry to get some place so I’m pushing it, taking the corners blind, keeping the revs up. It feels good. I feel good.

I come to a slope with a deceptive right-hand bend. The camber is all wrong. Everything is wrong. I know it almost before I hit it. I realise that everything is wrong at the very moment when everything is still right, when I still might get out of this unharmed and anybody watching would never realise how close I was to disaster.

The next thing I know, I’m out of the car, miraculously flung free. I’m hurtling through the air and down the slope, bouncing and skidding off the dirt. I can hear the car behind me, breaking apart as it follows me down the track. I slide to a halt in a cloud of dust and as I’m lying there on the road, trying to work out which parts of me are damaged, I look back and see the car bearing down on me. The windows have gone, the roof has caved in and there are chunks of metal hanging off in all directions. It’s a real mess. I’m lying directly in its path. It’s rolling right at me. I realise that if it doesn’t stop now, I’ll be crushed beneath it. I don’t have the time nor the strength to get out of the way. The next moment will decide whether I live or die, whether I get up and walk away or whether it catches me once and for all.

– So what happened?
– What?
– I see an old man lying in hospital. He’s thin and pale, frail and desiccated. The bedclothes are tucked in so tight you can barely tell if there’s a body in there. All you can see is his head like a punctured balloon with white fluff on top. Somebody is serving lunch, pushing a trolley around the ward and handing out trays.

Suddenly the old man sits bolt upright as if somebody pulled his trigger. His eyes are wide open, mouth gaping and he’s staring straight at me. His eyes are really exploding out of his head and I’m wondering if maybe he wants something from me. I’m about to call for help when, ever so slowly, he starts to topple sideways. He doesn’t simply flop over though. It’s a graceful, sliding swoon, like a ship keeling over, going under.

The next thing I know there are nurses and screens and they’re wheeling in machines to jump start the old boy. Everybody knows what’s going on so it goes very quiet on the ward as they wait for the curtains to part and the final act to begin. Pretty soon, they’re wheeling him out and, later still, somebody comes along to strip down the bed ready for the next patient. Of course, by this time, my lunch is stone cold but I eat it anyway. I have to keep on eating, keep on going and going, and all the time I’m thinking about how I was the last thing that old man ever saw.