Pathways (Version 2)

It’s amazing the difference a good night sleep makes. Like most people if I don’t sleep my memory suffers as well as my mood. For a while there I’d really struggled with insomnia and the resulting negativity was just feeding it. Thankfully though I’d managed to break that cycle by stepping up my exercise regime and slowing down my party lifestyle. Notice I said slowing down? There was no question of me giving it up entirely. A man’s got to have some down time to offset the daily grind.

Looking through the window I could see the bin wagon approaching but there was no need to worry as I’d put the bin out the night before. You see now what I mean about my memory? The mundane stuff is so much easier to remember when you’re not dragging yourself around after only getting two hours sleep.

Grimacing slightly I swallowed one last mouthful of shreddies and then washed it down with scalding coffee. Almost choking in my haste I adjusted my tie and grabbed my briefcase from the work top. Just in time I remembered my notes from the two meetings I’d attended at head office last week and began rummaging around like a mad man through the magazines and papers on the coffee table in the hope that they were still there.

There they were right underneath the Sunday Times. I breathed a sigh of relief, checked my watch and hurried out of the house, stuffing the papers inside my briefcase as I walked through the gate.

Exhaust fumes burned my throat as I passed endless queues of cars lining up to get into the city like ants pouring into an anthill. The bank where I worked wasn’t very far but I increased my pace to a brisk walk to get past the toxic cloud hanging above the traffic jam.

Up ahead a young woman had parked in a controlled parking zone and appeared to be embroiled in heated dispute with a traffic warden. A pretty pointless exercise, I thought. There was no way she was going to win that argument. People stared, but walked on by, caught up in their own little bubbles.

“Look Ma’am it says quite clearly, “No parking at any time. And believe it or not that includes blonde airheads driving their daddy’s BMW. I’m assuming you can read?” he said his voice dripping with contempt. He took out his note book and started scribbling.

“This is exactly my point. I’m not disputing the parking ticket,” the woman retorted. “I’m disputing your insulting tone and your ignorant, narcissistic behaviour. How dare you call me an airhead? I’m not surprised people get pissed off and stab you folks from time to time.”

Workmen standing on the scaffolding around the building next door stopped to watch, shouting semi lewd phrases of encouragement at the irate young woman. She scowled as one of them wolf whistled.

Now the traffic warden looked really miffed. I stopped for a minute to see what would happen next. He lifted his radio and flicked the switch. After a short buzz of static he reached the emergency operator.

“This is Tom Haines requesting police back up on Haringey Street. I’ve just issued a parking ticket to a Miss Kimberley Dalglish who has subsequently hurled abuse at me and has just threatened to stab me. Over.”

“We’ll have someone there as soon as possible Tom. Just remain calm and follow procedure. Over,” said the woman on the other end.

“Why you lying piece of shit!” cried the blonde. Suddenly she lashed out at him, obviously close to tears.

“Hey! Hey!” I said taking her by the arm. She turned to look at me and I knew I was going to be late for work. But what the hell, I couldn’t just ignore the situation. If someone didn’t do something she could end up being hauled off to the police station.

“Come and stand over here,” I said leading her to a spot beneath the scaffolding.

“Do yourself a favour and don’t speak to him again until the police get here. He’s just a typical bully. I’m sure you know the type. Drunk on the only bit of power he’s ever had.”

She nodded and then groaned, “I can’t believe I let him get to me like that.”

“Don’t worry about it,” I smiled. “He gets to practice being an asshole all day long. Not many could stand against up against egotism of that magnitude.”

Suddenly there was a series of massive crashes from above followed by shouts of terrified workmen, as the scaffolding collapsed sending standards, ledgers and transoms hurtling towards us. For a fraction of a second we felt something slam into us with indescribable force and then that was it.  Everything was gone. Reality was gone. She was gone, snatched away forever by fifteen tons of scaffolding that had just fallen from the sky.

For me there were nothing but days and days of blackness as if I had fallen into a bottomless void, absent of nearly all thought like developing foetus, floating in my own private limbo. But as the drugs they pumped into me started to wear off I became dimly aware of something from time to time. Through half glimpsed snapshots of the room, framed by my fluttering eyelashes I came to realize I was still alive.

Finally I came to completely, but found the sight of bandaged stumps where I’d formerly had legs extremely hard to take in. I had been warned, of course and I knew from the amount of time I had lost that my injuries must have been pretty severe. But still, it hit me with such gut wrenching force it was like the impact of the scaffolding all over again, but many times greater.

Gradually with counselling and therapy I have sought to come to terms with my altered body and find some kind of reconciliation. At the Edward Lipnicki Centre I meet other amputees and survivors of accidents every Monday in an effort to enunciate my feelings and achieve a level of emotional healing. Many of them have amazing stories to tell and put me to shame with their determination to look beyond what has brought them to this place and see the wider picture. Without them my journey would be so much harder.

But after countless hours of discussion and reflection none of us have ever been able to answer the hardest question of all and especially those that follow once you go down that particular path; What If…?



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