Gabriel owned several garages near his home where he stored exotic automobiles. His favourite was the Maranello Ferrari. He had owned the vehicle some fifteen years and remembered taking his third wife on a first date and she, amusingly, asking about the pony on the steering wheel and why was it there. He had told her it was the Ferrari symbol and hoped to impress. It didn’t. At least, he thought, ‘not another gold digger’ and they went on to dinner in Fulham.
The evening went well and they went back to her place. She had invited him in for a nightcap.
“But I am driving.”
“Silly boy!” She had given him a long, lingering kiss and at the time he had genuinely thought she could be ‘the one’.
Whilst their mutual infatuation had fallen like autumn leaves, he still loved the car and decided to take her out.
It had given him such satisfaction over the years and the incalculable pleasure of ownership. Why did he so love fast machinery? It was as if he was trying to escape, and perhaps he was.
He loved Irena and her daughter; his life had changed, all for the better. But sometimes he just wanted to drive fast and hard. This was such a moment. He was, in essence, a thrill seeker and there could be no greater thrill than driving at speed.
He turned the ignition and the Ferrari gave a throaty roar, like a lion at night. He turned on to the road. With his foot down he felt the slam of acceleration as he moved through the gears. The car had a paddle shift, smooth as silk. He thought Enzo had produced a masterpiece and he began to relax into the cockpit.
On the A4 he opened her up, radically breaking speed limits, but the fusion of mind and machine meant he felt safe. This was a grave error of judgement. You can be driving well but you are not the only man on the road and so it proved.
All he knew after that was what he had been told. A lorry had gone out of control and crossed into his lane; it was practically a head on collision. No blame was apportioned, but Gabriel knew he had been traveling at speed. He had no recollection of events and Gabriel was unconscious, which was perhaps for the best.
He was in the ICU. Irena had been informed and naturally came to the John Radcliff, where she met Dr. Rashid.
“How is he?” Tears rolled down her face.
“Not good I’m afraid. He has several broken limbs, which can be fixed, but his head trauma is more complex, I am sorry. We put him in an induced coma to see if his brain can heal; having operated to take the pressure off.”
“Will he recover?” she asked plaintively.
“Not sure. If people do come back, in my experience they are never quite the same. Ever.”
“Can I see him?”
“You can Mrs. Petrovitch, but I wouldn’t recommend it. His face is a mess.”
“I want to see him. Now!”
“Ok, Ok I understand your concern. But I must say Mr. Levi may never come round. He is on a ventilator and we have detected no brain activity.”
“I believe he will.” She said, and followed the doctor into the room where she saw Gabriel, on a bed; tubes in his nose and intravenous drip in his arm. A steady beat from the equipment monitoring heart rate. She took his hand.
“Come back my love, I don’t want you to go.” There was no response.
Gabriel could hear words and people, but like voices from under the sea, distorted. He felt no pain, just an incredible drowsiness, probably morphine. Was this the end? That was up to him. He had to find a way to start the engine.
Irena went home and cradled her daughter.
“Will he come back?”
“I am sure of it” said Lena, more to comfort than belief.
In the hospital, heavily sedated as he was, Gabriel knew he was alive. Not necessarily kicking, but alive. How could he get out of this mess? He did not want to sleep and his brain function rebooted. This would be difficult. He tried to move his fingers. This took enormous effort, but eventually the index finger on his right hand responded. Then, overcome by the medication, he slept. He had no idea how long. He was aware Irena had visited him on numerous occasions, but now he could hold her hand.
Gabriel’s dreams had always been vivid. Irena told him he talked in his sleep, usually in his own voice but sometimes in the voice of a young child. He would, on occasion, sing; though he had no memory of these events. He knew he had a poetic mind and looked always for balance in words and numbers. Equations were his life blood. The more elegant, the more likely they were true. However, as with all computation, equivalence is vital, irrespective of complexity in formulas.
He did not regard himself as particularly clever, though he achieved a double first in law and economics, but more intuitive. This had worked well for him. He knew he could share and express emotion, but there was always an element of doubt.
He slept. No idea how long. In this state he dreamed. Some were psychosexual, but others offered insight. In this drugged out malaise he went back. Further and further back to a time he wished to forget.
When he was eight his best friend’s father had raped him. While he felt sorry for himself, he felt worse for his son and began to understand his withdrawn nature. He learned some years later of his premature demise.
What a b*****d that man was to ruin a child’s life.
Thereafter he kept himself to himself, head in books; all the time knowing he could escape the prison of poverty.
Mike, Jen and Jamie came to visit. Jamie took Gabriel’s hand. He couldn’t move but Jamie said he’s there! In that comatose environment, like swimming underwater, he would come out of it. Gabriel concentrated. Harder than ever in his life. He needed to breach the surface of conscience, and while he knew it was in his armoury it would be difficult to find.
Other dreams followed, less distasteful. It was a defence mechanism. The reality he faced disgusted him, but he would not give in. So he slept, and has he did pleasanter memories ensued. He thought of Irena and her sweet caress in the nights they spent in each other’s arms. She was now his life, his sanity and if for nothing else he would come back.
On a starry night I gave away my chastity;
To a girl I thought I had.
But this was just catastrophe.
She dumped me the next day.
Was I so s**t in bed?
Perhaps I was;
All because what happened
Threatened my sanity.
It’s too late