I thought 2010 was all about taking the big step in putting myself out there. I’ve spent the past couple of years getting myself ready for it, now is the time to go for it. Melbourne Comedy Festival was the big one I was focused on. Things were in motion. Things were happening. All was going according to plan. That is, until a little over two weeks ago.
Since that Thursday evening, things have turned so far off-track that a couple of days ago I finally made the decision to cancel the Comedy Festival Show – in essence, cancelling my comedy plans for the remainder of the year to instead focus on my recovery and the everything that has become ‘life after the accident.’ I won’t go into details right now on the actual symptoms, it’s far too boring and easy to devolve into woeful self-indulgent whinging, but suffice to say that things have changed. A lot.
So, seeing as 2010 has already offered me a massive and quite dramatic lesson in giving up expectations (ironic, given that my comedy festival show was all about the unexpected aspects of life, thereby giving me a very undeserved superiority complex in terms of understanding of these matters), I have resolved that there is only way to break my way out of this hell-hole of self-pity: and that is, to put pen to paper. Or finger to keyboard. Whatever. The point is, I am in dire need of a flotation device right now and I’ve realised that this is mine: to write, write, write.
Since the accident, I have had a million things going through my mind – I don’t know if this is because of the medications, or whether it’s just my brain trying to distract me from the discomfort in my body, or post-traumatic stress from the accident, or the fog of sleep deprivation from poor bubba boy being so unsettled at nights since the crash, or possibly just a combination of all of these, mixing together like the various combinations of meds they’ve had me on for the past two and a half weeks – but what it comes down to is this. I cannot, simply cannot write anything else until I firstly get the entire accident business out of my head and onto the page. It just has to happen. So here it is.
Thursday the 21st January was a great day. I’d just done my first of a six-day contract at the Gallery of Modern Art doing their kids tours, and they’d gone better than I’d hoped. I had arrived home to my sister Ang’s place (with whom were were staying for part of our Brissie stint) and was in a great mood. My husband was on his way home from picking up the older two kids from a holiday program, Ang and I had reconnected with a massive D&M while celebrating our very first outing with both of our babies in their respective prams, it was a beautiful evening. In essence, the calm before the storm.
On a whim – and ironically, for the first time EVER – I decided that tonight I would try to get Cass to sleep the easy way and take him for a little evening drive. And thus the nightmare began.
With him happily gurgling in his capsule, I made my way down to the end of my sister’s street. I was pretty sure he’d be out to it in about ten minutes. We approached the major intersection on Mains Road. The light was green. I was going straight ahead. It all seemed simple. Then life changed.
Both the paramedics and police asked me if I remembered the accident happening and I replied “yes” at the time, but when I look back on it now I honestly feel like I either blacked out or have blocked it out, because my memory is like this: one second I’m driving happily along, the next seconds are just a series of thoughts.
What’s that sound?
Why is the horn going off?
Why won’t it stop?
Oh my knee hurts.
I can smell smoke.
My tongue stings.
There’s a red car smashed into the front of my car.
Why won’t the horn stop?
There’s steam coming out of the engine.
There’s an airbag in front of me.
Oh my God I’m in a car crash.
Can I move?
How bad is this?
Oh God am I going to die?
Open the door.
Can I open the door?
What is that? What?
(The CD player suddenly kicks in. Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” will never quite feel the same methinks).
Get out of the car.
My back, my back, my back.
The other driver is standing there, should I say something?
He does not look good, is he okay?
Oh my God. CASSIDY.
Oh please, oh please, oh please.
What am I going to find?
Oh please, oh please.
Get round to his door.
Look in, you can see him.
That’s a good thing, that’s a good thing. He’s alive.
Get him out.
Pick him up.
It’s okay, it’s okay.
He’s settling down, that’s good, that’s a good sign.
Oh please God, please God.
He’s settling, he’s settling.
What do I do?
Help me. Help me. Help me.
At some point I realise I am actually saying those exact words out loud “Help me, help me, help me” and looking around for someone – anyone – to help. How exactly, I don’t know, but just to be with me. So I’m not standing here in the middle of this intersection with an old guy looking like he’s having a heart attack and both our cars smashed together with my back feeling like it’s permanently crooked and my baby in my arms.
I make eye contact with people in their cars, stopped, watching, looking, dazed, but nobody moving a muscle.
“Help me! Help me! Help me! Please!” But they just watch. Why will nobody help me?
After what feels like forever – this is the first of a number of fuzzy time sequences to follow in the coming weeks – a middle aged man comes running from a neighbouring house. “Are you okay? What can I do?”
I look at him, so grateful, but so confused. All I can say is “Please.” “Please, please, please…”
“Do you want me to take the baby?” he offers.
“No.” The pain of not holding my baby right now seems far worse than that of clinging on to him, I don’t want to let him go. Ever. “Please, please,” I say, “can you call somebody? The ambulance….?”
“My wife’s onto that love,” he says, pointing to a lady standing over on the corner with a phone to her ear. “Just come on over here.” He and a young Asian couple who have since appeared, help me off the street and onto the grass on the side of the road.
“Is there anybody you need us to call?”
“My husband. Please, I need to call my husband.” The young guy offers me his phone.
“What’s his number?” he says.
I panic. “I can’t remember his number. What is it?” I dial his number twelve times a day. Where is it? Why can’t I remember? What’s happened to my brain? Am I brain damaged? What does this mean?
“You’re in shock, love,” says the older man. “It’s okay, the ambulance is coming.”
I finally remember the number and we call. No answer. The young guy keeps trying but still no answer. “My sister just lives around the corner,” I say, “but I don’t know her number. It’s on my phone but my phone is in the car.”
“I’ll go get it,” says somebody.
“Oh my back hurts so much,” I say. Somebody tries to pat me, then stops realising I guess that they might hurt me: “I’m sorry to tell you this, but the pain will get worse.”
Then – something happens, which, while adding insult to injury at the time, in some ways does provide my brain with at least some temporary comic relief – a freaking GREENANT BITES ME ON THE BUTT.
Yes. Uh-huh. That’s right.
I try to stand up, my helpers trying to support me but at the same time trying to tell me to sit back down. Perhaps they think that in my post-shock state I am about to embark on some imprudent mission to prove my physical prowess.
“Don’t get up, you need to sit.”
“But it hurts.”
“I know, the ambulance are here now.”