Do you remember when Dad used to drive to the next village, and deposit us in front of Aunt Jane’s television set? He’d go to the bar with Uncle Derek, drink all night then drive us home. The olden days, where drink driving was acceptable.
Do you recall the stretch of twisting road that separated the two villages? The windows wide open, cold air doing it’s best to keep Dad alert, or at least awake. The stench of alcohol still filling the car from his laboured breath. The sound of the cassette player banging out Fleetwood-fucking-Mac. The terrifying darkness. The the sight of rusted crash barriers, lit up by our headlamps, accelerating at us like a video game.
Then you died. And he stopped taking me with him on Sundays. Left me at home. Relieved, I no longer had to run that drunk-driving gauntlet of inevitable death.
Then he died. I remember the call.
The phone rang. Mother shuffled to the bottom of the stairs and lifted the heavy receiver from it’s cradle. The colour drained from her face. I looked at her, then walked to the kitchen to pour myself a glass of milk.
For months afterward I would lie awake at night, the house silent save for Mother snoring next door. She used to be a light sleeper. Catching us as we crept across creaking floorboards, seeking out midnight snacks or television. Remember? Now she had stopped coming to comfort me, like when you and I were young. She was dead to the world on a cocktail of downers and uppers. Busy dealing with these tragedies in her own way, I guess, so I resided in her peripheral vision.
After the crash I gained a week off school on compassionate leave. Truth is, nothing much changed for me. As a Dad he had been absent since your death four years earlier. We were a single parent family, pretty much. Rumour was Dad had taken to visiting a woman at the other end of the village, and it was a small village. He reduced Mother to the role of his personal Cafe and Dry-Cleaning service. She seemed content with the arrangement. Mother, in turn, took solace upon the shoulder of Uncle Derek. To this day she swears blind they never did anything until after both Dad and Aunt Jane died. I never believe her.
They are married now, by the way.
It was Uncle Derek who took me to the site of the accident, the next day. A gleaming new crash barrier stood out like a neon sign. Beyond this a slope led down to the riverbed. Gorse bushes had been ripped out of the ground, creating a path the width of a medium-sized Ford. We descended. The twisted shell of the vehicle was still there. Paint licked clean by the intense heat, the interior melted, tyres blown out. He had parked it nose-first against a rock outcrop. A perfect circle of scorched earth. When they finally removed Dad’s car it was all that remained as evidence. Later, nature reclaimed the spot, as it would his body. As we walked back to Uncle Derek’s car I found a cassette tape on the floor. Fleetwood-cunting-Mac.
Shit happens, you know, but the future is not fixed. I have acute awareness that my own life is starting to look like a fucking car crash.
Yours (in desperate need of his own, personal airbag),