I had the misfortune today of witnessing a fatal accident, or rather its aftermath. I had emerged from a bridle path onto the main road about a mile from home, having been out for one of my regular constitutional walks, when I saw a small group of people around what was clearly someone lying half in the road and half on the pavement. The group was silent and, as I got nearer, it became evident that the unfortunate individual on the ground was dead. He was a middle aged man, probably late 40s or early 50s, dressed as a walker; in fact dressed pretty well the same as me – quite expensive looking walking trousers, boots and cagoule but slightly scruffy and frayed and looking as if they had given good service for quite a few years. The expression on his face was one of mild surprise but the angle of his head and the copious amounts of congealing blood left little room for hope. On my enquiry a tall thin competent sounding woman said he was indeed dead as there was no pulse or breathing. Apparently she had some medical knowledge. It had been a hit and run driver someone said. A few cars had stopped to find out what was going on and an ambulance had been called. A siren could be heard in the distance, getting gradually louder. There was nothing I could do. I hadn’t witnessed the accident and the casualty was beyond help so, as the ambulance arrived, I drifted away from the scene and continued my walk home. I glanced back as the crowd separated to let the paramedics through and saw what I had not noticed before. The dead man’s left arm was extended along the gutter and grasped in his hand was a large white handkerchief.
I wonder if blowing his nose, or containing a sneeze, was the last conscious willed action of the poor man’s life. What was he thinking about, if anything, as the car struck him? Was it a happy thought, a regret, an anticipation? How inconsequential it would have seemed to him had he known he was on the verge of extinction, of nothingness. Perhaps any thought, however mundane and prosaic, would have been infinitely preferable than this knowledge. As I slowly wended my way home in the gathering gloom of the December late afternoon, I found myself wondering about the dead man and the last moments of his life, what he was feeling and thinking, what, in the event, utterly meaningless concerns coloured his last conscious moments.
TBC, Hanky, cold, effect on forthcoming meetings and activities. Hopes for the future over the years – being a grand father perhaps, promotion, retirement, a new life with a new woman, swagger the nut strewn way, live abroad, live on a canal boat, how the years would have been spent rather than the gradual dissolution into chemicals and carbon – the material stardust rather than the metaphorical star dust sprinkled future of his hopes and imaginings. Oblivion seized him before he had a chance to seize the day.