Wipe the Blood from Your Hands

You can’t explain to a dead family

By Les Pobjie

LAY his head back on the wheel. Wipe the blood from your hands. You can’t explain to a dead man.

It all happened so fast. You didn’t mean to swerve over the line. It was only for a second. But that was enough. Now they’re lying there. In the dark, rain beating in through the broken glass and mangled metal. You see the driver pinned behind the wheel. You want to grab him, pull him from the wreckage, shake him — and explain. Make him understand. It was just an accident.

You aren’t really drunk… Anyway, a man’s entitled to a drink with his mates. And it’s Christmas. A man can’t walk out on them… Not at Christmas. Tell him… You want him to understand. A man’s got a right to have a few beers… It’s the festive season.

Lay his head back on the wheel. Wipe the blood from your hands. You can’t explain to a dead man.

You see the bodies, twisted, distorted, bloodied — and feel sick. But you must explain. Explain, quietly, that the breathalyser, radar traps and road rules are infringements of our liberty. We’re adults. We shouldn’t have our right to drive interfered with.

Pass over the subject. Don’t mention the right a man has to live. Try to talk about his past and… Well, he has no future now.

You look at the lifeless teenager and fight back the tears.

Once he roared with laughter at parties, got drunk, ran on the beach and swam in the surf. Vowed he’d never marry — until he met the perfect girl… Don’t stop! Change the subject. It’s a funeral, not a wedding, that he’ll be guest of honour at next week.

Perhaps he’ll understand. The young are flexible. Perhaps he’ll see your side… Understand why you drove when drunk, why you came around the curve on the wrong side. Talk and babble your excuses… He must see your side. He must.

Let his head roll back on the seat. Wipe the blood from your hands. You can’t apologise to a crushed boy.

The pathetic little body lies there. You desperately want to pick her up… Tell her about the wonders the world holds for small girls. But first you must explain the ways of adults. Don’t let her go thinking we’re all fools, or insane. She’ll understand.

Tell her politicians might lose votes if they get too tough on drivers. Besides, people want the right to drive how they like: fast, madly, drunkenly. Explain to her.

Hold the little body closer and keep talking. Maybe she’ll under­stand.

But how can you explain about the glamorous machines with their lethal speed and gross power, sold as toys to youths barely off bicycles? Try to explain about the demon­strators. Thousands take to the streets protesting loudly about every right or wrong of humanity.

Now you wonder. How can you explain to the little broken body? There’ll be no one on the streets tomorrow protesting her death.

Pull the rug over her. Place the doll beside. You can’t explain adult logic to a lifeless child.

You want to rush up to the tangled mess of flesh and metal that once was a woman. You want to hold her hand, say you’re sorry. Say you didn’t mean to stop… dead… all her dreams and hopes for her children. You didn’t mean to smash into eternity all the living love, laughter and joys of her family.

Wipe the tears aside. Hush your stammering mouth. Apologies can’t replace a dead mother’s dreams.

Now it’s late. A crowd has gathered. Ambulance and police are here. You know it’s too late for the ambulance, and you wish the police would stop asking questions. Ques­tions whose answers chill your mind.

Through the rain, car lights glare; torches.

You look at what a short half hour ago were laughing, crying, growling, good, bad human beings with all the strengths and talents and failings and frailties of all humans.

They didn’t know they would leave life like this, as a public show, under lights, on a dark, wet road, bringing gasps from curious, morbid onlookers. You look numbly at the crushed, ragdoll bodies.

Now they’re taking them away. You stand like a rundown toy as the people push past. You want to rush up. Grab them. Tell them. Explain you don’t usually drive so aggressively. Explain! You didn’t mean it!

Explain! It’s Christmas… A festive time… and a man’s got a right to drive the way he wants. A man’s got a right… Hasn’t he?

Let the people with the bodies past. Wipe the blood from your hands. You can’t explain to a dead family.