Go left





















give way












































After about 45 minutes, the man asks me if I like Barbra Streisand and I say, yeah, why not, so he puts the tape on and she starts singing Memories... which makes me laugh because that was my old man’s favourite as well. I’m having a good sticky beak at the car because I like to know what I’m travelling in. It’s a black car. Nice car, I say, and the man nods.

I give it a while longer and then I start talking to him. It’s what I do with all my lifts. The way I see it, if someone gives me a lift in their car then the least I can do is talk to them. That’s what you’ve got to do if you’re a hitcher. I start by telling him about my accident, how I’m piling down this street when a car comes from nowhere, and I swerve to miss it but skid out of control and slam into another car parked on the street, minding its own business. A woman comes running towards me screaming, That’s my car! That’s my fucking car! and I’m lying there wondering how I managed to end up on the passenger side floor with not a mark on me.

Barbra starts singing about Superman and I sing along too, only silently. I like to keep it inside my head. We travel along for a while, moving pretty fast, and I sink back into my seat. I love the smell of leather in a new car. There’s a little compass stuck on the dashboard and when we go over a bump, the needle wobbles like it’s about to fall off or something. The tape finishes with a quiet click and the driver starts up:

It’s true. In the seconds before impact, time appears to slow down. Events are taking place faster than the human brain can comprehend but so much information is being processed, so rapidly, that the sensation is one of being intensely aware of every minute circumstance. The subject has the impression of living a lifetime in that moment. It is hard to believe that the events are happening. The subject has a momentary hope that they won’t.

But they do. At the moment of impact, the laws of physics are reversed and the sound of metal striking metal travels fastest, the first indication that an accident has occurred. Then the metal appears to dissolve, becoming fluid and malleable under the intense pressure of particles colliding with extreme force. This is followed by a short period of random, violent movement.

The subject experiences a mixture of disbelief and something akin to euphoria, commonly called shock. The lasting impression is often one of having undergone an experience almost beyond words. In common parlance, it can only be described as mind-blowing. Long-term consequences are difficult to predict and may remain undetected for a considerable period of time. In many cases, there is little chance of gaining a full restoration of normal faculties…

He’s got a really nice voice, this bloke, like someone on the radio, so I close my eyes and just listen to him talking. It’s beautifully quiet in the car and, even at top speed, the engine barely makes a murmur. The air conditioning keeps us cool and fresh and, what with the tinted windows and everything, it’s like travelling in our own tiny space capsule. The outside world seems a long way off.

I give a little sigh and smile to myself. This is it, I think, we’ve finally made it into orbit. I reach out to touch the compass and the next thing I know, it’s as if I’m floating and my body is completely weightless.