By D. Coppi
I felt like a dandelion flower blown apart by a fierce wind the night my mother died. I was shattered and scattered, drifting on a breeze of shock and longing for one last kiss or one last chance to hold her soft hands or to tell her a joke.
I couldn’t have saved her. Nobody could have. Her tiny frame was no match for the two-tonne car that sped through the pedestrian crossing. The little green man was flashing and my mother dutifully followed his order to cross. Unfortunately, the blood that pooled around her brain following the collision was also dutifully bound to fulfil its potential. Within minutes a haematoma had formed, pushing on my mother’s delicate brain. Intracranial pressure can be so great that it can force the brainstem towards the vertebral column, squashing the vital centres that control breathing, heart rate and ultimately life.
It was over in a matter of minutes for my mother and the coroner assured me that she wouldn’t have suffered. The concussive blast of her head hitting the damp road would have rendered her unconscious immediately. I take comfort in this fact as I know my mother would have been deeply embarrassed if she knew she was bleeding onto her new blouse.
We held a funeral, her life was celebrated and at the wake I ate one of the best sandwiches I had ever tasted. It was a simple corned beef and seeded mustard sandwich on white bread but whoever constructed it unknowingly made my life a little brighter on what was undoubtedly an unpleasant day.
In the days, weeks, and months following her passing I existed but was certainly a long way from living. With my sister having rushed back overseas to a high-paying job and a handsome European husband, and my father a drunken mess most nights (and many mornings, for that matter) I felt hopelessly alone.
I returned to work under sympathetic gazes and gentle hugs but I didn’t seem to cry as much as the people doing the hugging. In fact I hadn’t cried much for my mother at all. Maybe my tear ducts weren’t working. Maybe I didn’t want to believe that she was truly gone.
As for the driver who struck my mother, she fled from the scene, drunk and terrified. Fortunately, a man who witnessed the accident had the wherewithal to record the car’s licence plate number. That woman is now residing under lock and key for a minimum of forty four months after being found guilty of vehicular manslaughter.
I was present for the trial but became bored and disinterested with the amount of legal jargon and manoeuvring the defence lawyer was trying to employ. He unsuccessfully argued that his client had reacted badly to a prescription medication leading her to black out and lose control of the vehicle. Her blood alcohol analysis told a vastly different story.
Our eyes briefly met as she was led away from the dock and although I could see genuine sorrow in her eyes, my face felt like brittle rock and my eyes were heavy and still. I watched her disappear through a narrow door and that was the last time that I ever saw her. I think it is cruel that I was able to witness this woman exit my life forever but I wasn’t afforded the same privilege with my own mother.
I remember the last conversation I had with my mother as it was merely minutes before the accident. I called her from my new home in a city far, far away. I’d moved to the city from our small country town firstly for university and then work but also to escape the small town drudgery and limitations. I once worked out there was a mountain range, an expansive plain and at least three major cities between my old home and my new. But, I could always reach my mother at the end of the phone line.
I remember we talked about work, girls, and how my father had only just discovered sushi. He was only about fifteen years too late but to put it into context it wasn’t that long ago that coriander and Arborio rice were considered foreign delicacies in the small country town I once called home. I still remember the priceless look on my father’s face the night my mother tried to introduce the family to couscous.
After that last phone call, I returned to work while my mother saw a little green man begin flashing as she stepped out into an intersection to cross the road.