Coming to my senses, I feel the warmth first, then, as the blur over my vision clears; I see her shape, the smile on her face, brown hair, hazel eyes, and the tilt of her head as she speaks to me.
“You’re okay, Mr. Hogg. You’ve been involved in an accident. Just relax please, and she gives the back of my hand a pat.
I can hear myself thinking, accident and her voice repeating that word in my head, but out there, somewhere. Its echo hollow and distant. Yet she is right here, at my side, holding my hand. Am I in pain? I concentrate but feel only numbness, paralyzed? My panic, tangible, alerts the woman to my concern.
“You’re fine, Mr. Hogg. We’ve given you a little something to help you relax, okay? You might feel slightly panicked, maybe not feel your legs, but everything is as it should be, do you understand?”
I nod my head. I cannot feel any sensation in my legs. Only feel my hand being held. I try to remain calm. Everything is okay, she said, no need to panic, just keep calm. I feel a coldness descend.
“Mr. Hogg…Mr. Hogg,” she repeats, “we have someone who wants to ask you a few questions, do you feel up to it?”
I feel a little afraid, numb, cold. I can feel nothing below my waist.
“Sure, I think I’m okay. I am okay, aren’t I?”
“Of course, just relax, I’ll be right here,” she says, smiling and then beckons to someone with a movement of her head. I grip her hand with my fingers.
“Hello, Mr. Hogg. I’m sorry to see you this way. Unfortunately, I have to ask you some questions; the nurse tells me you’re doing okay, out of danger. That’s good.”
“I can’t feel my legs.”
The nurse chimes in. “You will, Mr. Hogg, I promise you. Just a few minutes, and your legs will be feeling fine. Please relax. Answer the police officer’s questions.”
Police officer? I never thought, didn’t understand, didn’t realize until she said. I look at his uniform. His helmet under his right arm, and a notebook in his left hand. His white shirt, black tie, smart, official, authoritative. I feel a shrinking cool enter into my stomach.
“Do you remember anything of the accident, Mr. Hogg?” he says, looking down at his notebook, pencil poised.
“No, sir. I don’t.”
“Do you recall leaving home?”
I’m so conscious of having no feeling in my lower body that I can hardly think straight.
“No, I’m afraid I don’t.”
“Can you say state your name, your date of birth?”
“Matt Ryan Hogg. February 13, 1999.”
“And your address, sir?”
“17 Regal Square, Whitechapel.”
The police officer leans toward the nurse, standing at the back of my head. He has a word in her ear. I hear the whisper, like a moth caught in my head. I try to look back, pushing my neck into the pillow, straining my eyeballs upwards to see what they are doing, but cannot see them. Just hear the flutter of mouths speaking inaudibly.
“Mr. Hogg, I have to tell you some sad news I’m afraid. The car you were driving, well it mounted a pavement near your home. A mother and a child were killed.”
The pressure of blood to my brain sluices down my neck and away from my head. Nausea overtakes my stomach. I feel a blue depth approaching. Then it washes over me.
“Mr. Hogg…Mr. Hogg…it’s okay, gently now…gently…you’re okay…and again I can feel her hand gripping mine. I hold onto it tightly.
My head is exploding, barking bouts of pain enter and leave in cycles of agony. My brain can hardly control thought; it runs wild, why…why me…what happened?
The nurse helps tilt my head forward. I sip at the water, feeling the cool of it run over my lips, but cannot swallow, and the surplus overflows my mouth, seeping back passed my lips, running down my neck and forming a puddle in the well below my Adams Apple.
“Try to relax your body, Mr. Hogg. You’re having a difficult time breathing. In…out…in and out…keep in time with me please, big breath in…now out…and again…in and out, that’s better, keep that going.”
She calls the police officer back.
“You can continue now,” she tells him and squeezes my hand reassuringly.
“You don’t recall using your cell phone at any time, Mr. Hogg?”
I feel a sudden drift of guilt. I try hard to remember, try to see myself at the wheel, see the cell phone.
“No, sir. I do not recall anything. Cell phone?” I ask.
Yes, sir. Eyewitnesses report they saw you driving without due care. You were using a cell phone. You definitely don’t recall this?”
There is a deep and dark resonance to his voice. He believes I do remember and am not admitting fault. It is in the timbre of his voice, and his inflection on the word definitely says it all.
A mother and a child dead! A fog thickens before my eyes. I feel profoundly alone and afraid. I’m alive, and a mother and her child are dead because I was using a cell phone while driving.
How can this destruction happen to me, to them, innocently standing, walking, playing, when my car smashes into them? My senseless act. The cell phone. A call, to who, why? What could be so important that I would risk such havoc and death on someone for a phone call?
The lamp above my head seems distant. I feel far…far underground. What a stupid thing, a cell phone. I wasn’t drunk. I wasn’t on drugs or medication; I had been using the cell phone and somehow drove into a woman and child.
Nothing makes sense.
“Do you have a reading there, nurse?” The police officer asks.
It is a distant question, somewhere out there, but audible. I turn my head.
“Yes, Mr. Tomlin, it’s a good reading. I think we are done here.”
“Good, I’m meeting with my wife this evening, it’s our twentieth anniversary,” he says, cheerily.
“Congratulations, that’s wonderful. Here, let me take that jacket from you.” The nurse holds her arms up to his shoulders while he twists away from her and shrugs the jacket down his arms. I feel my leg twitch.
“Let me have a look, please.” The police officer, now in shirtsleeves, wrenches the paper from the machine. “Hmmm…very good. I’ll sign him off, and if you don’t mind I’ll make my way home, the traffic will be building up soon.”
Feeling is flooding into my legs now. My head is clearing. Perfect sound, no echo, no sense of noise being far off.
“Do you feel you can swing your legs off the gurney?” She asks. Her voice isn’t the same tender voice that had reassured me. It seems distant, like that of an office manager.
I hear traffic. I hear people talking outside the door.
“You’ll be remembering why you came now, Mr. Hogg,” she says, busily signing papers at a desk.
I look around, feeling half drunk, feeble, slightly nervous.
“Don’t worry; you now have a full driving license. You passed the simulated accident scenario. Your guilt level was excellent.” She holds out a paper sheet. “Just hand this to the receptionist when you leave. If you need a cup of tea let her know. There is a waiting room if you still feel a little unsure of yourself.”
By the time I reach the desk, I’m recalling my mother shouting her good luck.
“You’ll be okay, son. Pass this last test, and you’ll be driving. I’ll keep my fingers crossed. Bye son.”
The lady at the desk hands me my first driving license.