I had crashed my car into a tree trying to dodge a speeding van. It was coming from the left, jumped the red light I guess. I saw it from the corner of my eyes, racing towards the point where I would be in a moment or two. I slammed my foot on the brakes and turned the steering to the right as hard as I could. The driver of the van did the same. And then it happened. The crash.
Lying on one side of the crashed car, my body pressed against the windows, I felt heavy and immobile, like a sack of wet clothes. I couldn’t move. I think I broke the bones in my right hand. A sharp pain rose from it and went to my head which felt like bursting. I felt something rolling down my forehead. Blood or sweat? I couldn’t tell.
Somehow, I managed to unbuckle the seat belt using my left hand. The air was choking up with fumes coming out of the dashboard. I longed for a breath of fresh air like never before. I tried opening up the windows using the push buttons on the console. The windows didn’t budge. The hood was flat open, blocking my view in the front. I looked out of the passenger seat window above and saw a thin streak of cloud hung pasted across a frozen blue sky. I winced one more before I saw the blue turning into dull grey and then to dark black. I passed out.
When I opened my eyes again, summer breeze was flowing across my face. I looked up and found an old lady sitting beside me, staring at my face, wearing the friendliest of smile I had ever seen. I was lying on a cool patch of ground and I could see the crashed car across the road.
Was the lady in that van, I tried to remember. I couldn’t tell. Looking at her face I realized she had a familiar face. Not that I had seen her before. But she had that kind of face that is there in those TV commercials selling Life Insurance. The face that would inspire confidence. The face that always wears a smile.
I tried to say something. But only empty air came out of my mouth. I felt like that dry pipe of which water supply had been cut. She must have realized the thoughts on my mind as I saw her lips arching into a wider smile. She raised her finger and placed it on her lips, indicating me to stop trying.
I stopped trying.
I remembered trapped in the car a while back. There was no way I could have come out on my own. This old lady must have pulled me out. But how? She didn’t look that strong. Her clothes were spotless, and face without sweat. No sign of her breaking a sweat pulling me out from there.
Looking at her face above my head, blocking out the sun, I remembered a time in my childhood when I used to visit my grandmother’s house. In front of her house, outside the porch, there was a mango tree. It was as big and as lush one can get. I would go out and lie on the ground beneath it for hours. It was very peaceful and tranquil there.
I felt washed by the same feeling lying beside her.
And then suddenly she got up. She lifted her right hand as if she was saying goodbye. I raised my right hand to hold her leg, to stop her from going. But a gush of pain stopped me in my track. It was my fractured hand. And then everything came back -the feeling of being trapped, the choking air, the heat. The sky burst into a blinding white light and I closed my eyes as tight as possible.
And then I realized, I was back inside the car.
I heard a piercing noise from far far away. I couldn’t tell what it was. But it was shrill and repeating itself again and again. Every second it was becoming louder and clearer. It was coming nearer to me. In that noise, my head started throbbing with pain. I couldn’t take it anymore, I felt like dying. I passed out again.
. . .
There was a whirring sound of air conditioner above. I could smell the hospital air. The smell of sanitized bottles and extra-bleached bedsheets. I opened my eyes and saw a few people surrounding me. I couldn’t make out who is who. The visibility wasn’t clear. It was like looking through a frosted glass, only shapes and sizes, with faint hue of colours.
I heard someone saying that I was lucky to have survived for so long inside that car. I had lost a lot of blood. And locked up inside the car, with heat and fumes filling it every second, they wouldn’t have given me a chance in a million to survive. But somehow I did. And luckily an ambulance passed through that road. Another miracle.
Something gave him hope in those moments, they were saying, something that made him hang on.
Listening to them I remembered that old lady. I could still feel her fresh breath on me. Her face blocking the sun like that tree outside my grandmother’s house, calm and peaceful. I felt like sleeping again. This time it was due to medication. I had this feeling that it would be a deep sleep. I saw the shapes and sizes disappearing. I closed eyes and immediately went into a sleep.
. . .