In my work in progress, a character says, “Some days you don’t forget, no matter how long ago they were.”
4:20am, 24th August 1990.
There’s a knocking on the door of the house where I’m sleeping – an aunts house. Insistent and persistent. Barely awake; then there’s a figure at my bedroom door, unmistakably a policeman. For a second, I confuse him with my cousin (also a policeman).
My brother is dead. Car crash.
First thought might be an odd one, but here it is: Oh. Is that all? You couldn’t have waited until…like…six in the morning to tell me that? It takes me a second longer to process the real meaning.
The start of a long day, a long journey home by taxi. My dad howling like a wounded and caged animal; my mum said she heard someone call out her name at about 12:20am when it happened.
It happened around 12:20, but it took a few hours to track us down – my brother’s car was new, and the paperwork hadn’t caught up yet. He was racing on a wet road – slippery enough to kill him. Here’s something else: If he’d done it now – antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, airbags, crumple zones – he’d have probably walked away with a sore head and a story.
I’d only just started to learn to drive as well – the date on my learners licence was the 25th August, 1990, when it arrived later. First thing I asked my family was if they wanted me to carry on.
I’m a very cautious driver, as you can imagine, even now. Driverless cars can’t come fast enough for me, to be honest.
My brother never made it to twenty-one – he was three months short of that milestone. Me? All this happened five days after my eighteenth birthday. I’m forty-three this year.
Twenty five years ago. It’s a long time to be dead, twenty-five years. Never got the chance to marry, have kids, grow old.
Drive carefully, folks.