“Eyes Wide Shut”

When I was in high school, my aunt’s uncle had a white van and he was basically my family’s bus service. By ‘my family,’ I mean me and my siblings, plus all of my cousins. Honestly, I think we all spent some time in that van – some of us for years, others for just a few semesters. But the Van Man, as we affectionately called him, only catered to the high school kids. The ones in primary had to fend for themselves.

My mum picked my two younger brothers up every day.

Which is why, on one fateful day, I was in the school van with my sister, and three of my cousins, on the way home, and my mum, two brothers, and two elder sisters (who’d both already graduated) were in our family van. I don’t know why my two sisters were with her that day, but they were. So was one of my other young cousins.

Why did I call it fateful, I hear you ask? Let me tell you.

It was sometime in August, if I remember correctly. The weather felt more like spring than winter, and those in the school van were pretty chipper. The sun was shining, the school day had ended, and we were chilling on the way home. I just remember us all laughing. And none of us had seatbelts on. That was just the way of the school van. It had the vibe of a summer day – where nothing mattered, and days were long, and everyone was just happy to be alive. At least, that’s how it felt to be in it after school.

The mornings were a different story.

Anyway, returning to that fateful afternoon. We were all chatting, laughing at our jokes and each other, when we suddenly got close the scene of a crime. An accident.

A van had ploughed straight through a shop window on the street corner. Literally straight through. The entirety of the van was inside the shop window. There was glass everywhere and police cars too. It was a scary sight.

And then it got scarier.

We were stopped at the traffic light, our mood turned a little sombre at having looked upon this most tragic event. And then, one of my cousins asked, “Isn’t RUX your numberplate?”

The world stopped.

RUX was our numberplate. Or part of it. And it was then that we realised for the first time that the van looked exactly like ours, like the one mum had driven to pick up my brothers.

Panic set in.

We became a chattering group again, but it was much more tense now.

The light turned green, and the Van Man had to turn left. He did, but just as quickly, he found a spot to park. My sister and cousin ran down, and the rest of us drove on to go and pick up my cousin’s mum. For extra support, maybe? I honestly don’t know why we did that.

But we did.

Luckily our house was less than five minutes from the crash site, so we got back pretty quickly.

Everything was still in disarray as we ran down the street towards the destroyed shop window and van.

We found my cousin outside and she smiled, which brought tears to my eyes weirdly, and said, “Everyone’s alright!”

What a relief. I felt like the world had been pushing me down into the ground, weighing on me, was going to snap me in half any second. But I could breathe again.

My mum and sisters were just sitting there, in shock. My brothers and cousin were playing on wheelchairs. Turns out, mum had crashed into a rehabilitation centre. She’d ruined probably thousands of dollars’ worth of rehab equipment.

But, hey! Could’ve been worse.

Actually it could’ve been a lot worse.

The verdict was that my mother had fallen asleep as the wheel. No, not fallen asleep. Just blacked out. She was wearing sunglasses, and sitting perfectly straight, her hands still on the steering wheel, so my sister in the front seat didn’t even realise anything was amiss until mum kept accelerating instead of slowing down to turn left. And by then it was too late.

Can you imagine being in the front seat, powerless to do anything, as you went crashing into a shop?

Horrifying.

Anyway, so she blacked out and then woke up as soon as the car came to a stop inside the shop. Thinking about it, if she had woken up before smashing into the shop, she probably would’ve tried to swerve out of the way, and possibly could’ve hit one of the two powerline poles on either side of the window, and that could’ve caused waaayyyy more damage, to property and people.

Also, thankfully, nobody was hurt. Nobody was in that section of the shop at the time.

Like I said, could’ve been a lot worse.

So that’s the story of how I thought half my family had perished in a car crash. Happy ending, I suppose.

Moral of the story: If you ever black out while driving, try to stay blacked out until it’s over.

Wait. That’s not a good moral.

 Let’s try again.

Moral of the story: Don’t drive if you’re tired/prone to blackouts.

Yeah, that’s better.

Funny thing is, mum’s never blacked out since. Nor had she before this.

Life is weird.

Ciao 4 now!

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