It was the first day of winter and a Saturday. The weather had turned sharply a week before and there had been constant rain for a week. Her son fell asleep at the wheel at 5.30am on the way to work. He had put his hand up for overtime. He is a good boy; a nineteen-year-old Diesel Technician apprentice. Usually, when someone falls asleep at the wheel the pressure on the accelerator pedal reduces. Still, it doesn’t usually end well. There’s always a tree, or an embankment, or another car. Her son was on the Western Highway at the speed limit of 110km per hour. He woke up when all four tyres hit the dirt. His tyre tracks ran through the new grass and then his car slammed into the newly installed barriers. His car spun out across the highway enough times to give him time to articulate the thought he was going to die. His mother is at once dizzy at that thought and then her heart cracks wide open as she puts herself in his experience. He slammed into the barrier again, taking out another six or more posts but the wire held firm. The wire saved his life. His own car was in the shop so he was driving a very old ute that his Pop had bought for a runaround. The roadworthy had stipulated new seat belts so they had been replaced. The car was towed straight to the wreckers but he walked away without a scratch. Police attending another accident where a car had hit a pole on an adjacent road watched the whole episode unravel and walked over to comfort him immediately. It still feels like the worst day of her life. If the wire wasn’t there he would have sped down the small, sludgy embankment and most certainly would have flipped his car and most certainly died.
The Mothers cracked heart is only holding together with strings of constant tears and a new appreciation of what it is to be anxious. A state too filled with too much of everything. She is grateful for the wire but her experience needs to be filled quickly with new hellos and goodbyes and more hellos so her son telling her I thought I was going to die becomes a distant troublesome memory. Is that even possible? She woke this morning at 4am wanting to wake her son to check he hadn’t bled to death internally overnight. Irrational but compelling. It reminds her of when he was a baby and if she woke in the night she would check for his breath. The universe guides her but it’s Sunday and she wants him to rest so she resists for a few hours. Is resisting strength or a deviation to remaining true to who she was before? This is now the mother’s anxiety. At least in the quiet hours on the road, when sleep is the enemy, she can be comforted that the barriers will guide the way.