I found myself in a kind of trance, a daze, a dream. It began with a reflection on the night before, which now seemed distant, a vague memory of debauchery and mayhem. I’d survived it without even an alcohol-induced stupor, though if memory served, others hadn’t been so lucky. The driver seemed lucid enough but our other passenger was tipsy at best.
I was sitting quietly in the back seat. The road ahead was clear and wide. We were on our way to I knew not where, or why, or with whom.
The picture became clearer as we turned the bend in the road, one, and then another. It was a city street, on the northern beaches of Sydney. It was the Eastern Valley Way. It was autumn, the ‘fall,’ as it’s called in the States. ‘The fall.’ The term had a feeling of negativity about it. To rise and fall, and rise again, only to fall further, deeper, into a wider chasm of despair.
I would soon have clarity that this day would indeed be a chasm for someone in the car, that it would represent desperation of the most unpleasant kind. Human life would be at risk of loss. But whose?
We drove on.
Uneventful the trip remained until we came to another bend. The road was evenly paved, no hills, no valleys to contend. And the streets were almost empty, placing the driver in a state of unexpected over-confidence.
Until we saw the cyclist.
Cyclists were common along the streets of Sydney so no-one in the car thought anything of it at first. But none of us anticipated what would come next. As we continued on down the road with care and ease, the cyclist suddenly, without warning, turned. No hand signal to tell us he was turning right or left. Dressed in his professional cycling garb, he did a 180 degree turn, straight into the lane of the car we were in. The driver looked up to see his face in front of her windscreen.
It was too late.
She rammed her foot on the brake. The wheels screeched. But all she could do was watch and wait whilst the cyclist fell from the windscreen down under the front of the car, which had slowed to a halt and was now stationary in the middle of the road.
With no car behind us, at least I was safe, a helpless passenger able to do little, no, able to do nothing, to avert danger from others.
That’s what he must have been. The bike was a write-off, the cyclist had to be too. The driver opened the car door, stepped out of the car, hands shaking on her knees, whilst she tried to bend down to see if she could pull the cyclist, or what was left of him, from under the car. The third person in the car had called the police, and they were able to take charge while she stood back, ordered to clear the scene. The ambo’s weren’t far away.
The driver was able to rest easy in the knowledge the cyclist’s life had been saved by those attending the scene. “He’s breathing,” they said in tandem. A deep sigh could be heard come from the driver’s direction, resting now against the rock-face on the side of the road. The area had been cleared and traffic re-directed.
“Come with us,” said the police, as the driver waved to us ‘passengers,’ mouthing the word ‘thank-you’ as she walked away, a serene easiness and an alleviation of pressure surrounding her every move.
It was dusk.
My friend had saved the day, holding firm whilst others felt distressed at the scene before them. His daughter had appeared. We moved toward the town centre, not a five-minute walk away. “Take her,” he suggested, as he passed her, like a football, over to me. I effortlessly lifted her up over my shoulders as she piggy-backed her way to town, where we would enjoy a stiff drink to relieve the strain the day had become. Her hands rested on my chest as she sang sweetly, softly, melodiously;
Now it’s time to say good night
Good night, sleep tight
Now the sun turns out his light
Good night, sleep tight
Dream sweet dreams for me
Dream sweet dreams for you