The rain we’d all been praying for came the night you died. Ironically it was the life-giving rain that caused your death.
The city was a mess. It always is, when it rains. Traffic backed up for miles as hot engines crawled through the wet night.
We snaked along De Waal Drive and down onto the N2, roadworks conspiring with our inability to drive in the rain to hold us back, hold us down, keep us from an early night.
Inch by icy, sodden inch we rumbled forward, patience long since grown thin, expressed in revving growls and querulous blasts on our horns – an impotent rage against our frustration.
At last we pushed through the bottleneck and the road opened up ahead as rain fell harder on the windshield, blurring out the night on either side of the motorway. The cars ahead broke away as impatient drivers punched their accelerators to the floor. Home. The was our only goal.
I saw the gaps open up between the cars ahead. Speeding up. Red lights ahead flying home on the dark, wet road…then – I saw it happen…there was no time to make it stop, to make it different.
A sudden crazed flash of brake lights, an explosion of white light on your body caught in the headlamps. The driver had no time to react, to swerve. And you died.
And I saw.
I saw you arc through the air, a broken doll flung by an invisible hand, legs twisted all wrong… arms stretched out for help to a god who wasn’t there to save you.
I saw you fall as cars cut to either side of you onto the verge.
I saw you land, splashing oily rainwater as you slid across the tarmac and I knew you were gone. No one could survive, twisted as you were.
I saw you lying there in the cold white glare of my headlamps. I tried not to stare as I drove past but I had to look, to acknowledge you, man with no name who I didn’t know existed until you existed no more. I had to bear witness that right there at that spot at that time, there lay you – whoever you were.
You died there, in the dark. In the cold rain. I passed the car that claimed you, its front impossibly crumpled and broken. The driver sat clutching the steering wheel around the ragged deflated airbag, uninjured but damaged forever.
Darkness lay ahead and I let it swallow me and guide me home, taking me away from the horror of that place, that moment.
I am sorry. I am sorry for a lot of things. That you lived at a time and in a country where you had to walk home at night, crossing the motorway to get to your shack in a run down squatter camp.
I am sorry that as we drive that same route, days later, there is nothing to mark what happened, to affirm that up to that point you were a living, breathing human being.
It’s as if that night never happened and you never existed.
There is no absolution for us. Let there be peace for you.
Rest In Peace, unknown man.
© Dave Luis 2017. All Rights Reserved.