The car crash. I’ll try not to dwell on the blood and gore elements – but more on the psychic consequences. I don’t remember the crash itself at all – I was knocked unconscious. All I remember, weirdly, is this.
Before the crash I was replaying in my mind – or felt, afterwards, I had been replaying – the final episode of Two Thousand Acres of Sky in which the hero dies. Knowing the heroine has fallen in love with someone else, without meaning to commit suicide, exactly, he goes out in a small, unseaworthy boat and ends up on the beach of some windswept island, dying. Except that he doesn’t know he is dying. He thinks he’s dropping off to sleep. He is rather peaceful about it. We are, somehow, participating in his dying delusions, experiencing his faltering consciousness with him. I hadn’t been expecting that final dramatic twist in what was supposed to be a romantic comedy – it had shocked me.
The next thing I knew, the ‘drowning hero’ narrative was picking up exactly where it had left off, as I swam up from depths of unconsciousness. I remember thinking – something just happened, but yet it can’t have. I’m still in the same story.
Thinking about it now, I would guess my mind was gently talking to me in pictures (that’s what it does – there are no words in the Unconscious). It was letting me know, in its own way, that I either was dying, might be dying or had died, but that now it was time to wake up. Don’t drift away, it seemed to be warning me.
February 2002, that was. Climbing a long, winding hill-road, with woods on either side. Apparently some idiot was coming down the hill, turning round to talk to his kids in the back, swerved over to my side of the road and hit my car head on. My car rolled over – possibly more than once – and landed on its roof in the woods. I don’t know how I got out, but I did. The first thing I remember is the green uniform of the ambulance man leaning over me. It didn’t seem surprising – merely puzzling. He asked me where I had been going. I asked him what day it was. He said Saturday. I said if it was Saturday I must have been going to visit my parents. I apparently gave him their full address including post-code – I found where he had written it all out in my handbag notebook afterwards.
I ended up in hospital with a head injury, a neck injury, a bashed-in elbow, a twisted ankle and something wrong with my ribs, possibly from hanging upside down in the seatbelt. My glasses were in the car, smashed, so in hospital I couldn’t see anything. They kept moving me from ward to ward: same white-ish, green-ish blur.
Not a good time, and it took months to recover. My neck’s never exactly worked since. Even when I was well enough to drive again and the insurance had secured me a replacement for my written-off car, I couldn’t bring myself to drive up that hill. I followed a series of lengthy and inconvenient detours for the next six months.
I felt that the accident both had and hadn’t happened. I was me, now, recovering but I was her, then, and the accident was still waiting for me half way up that hill. The universe had bitten me, and now it was lurking in the undergrowth, waiting its chance to rush out and bite me again.
But that wasn’t all. It was the conviction that grew on me in the weeks after the crash, that I had died in the crash and that this was not that life but… this life. I felt that I had died and at that moment had moved into one of my parallel universes, in which I was continuing with my life as it would have been, except everything was subtly altered. Nothing was quite as it should be.
Make of that what you will. This still feels like the wrong universe but I suppose it’s better to be here (if I am here). After all, if I am still there what’s left of me is a paragraph in the local newspaper and an unvisited brass plaque in the grounds of the crematorium!