Monday, 23 June 2008


The following story i wrote as an English assignment earlier in the year. I hope you like it, and take something away from reading it.

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I’m sitting in what could possibly be the most uncomfortable seat in the entire world, listening to a woman on a podium make an impassioned speech. Whether anyone is listening other than the select few scattered throughout the audience, I do not know. But I’m listening. With every word she speaks, she will come closer and closer to tears. I know why. Soon everyone else in this enormous room will too.

“What I want to tell you today is a story, not of myself, but of someone much more amazing …” the woman breaks down into tears and steps aside for a moment. To the innocent bystander, as most of the 1200 people listening are, this statement paired with the sudden tears may not make much sense other than that something bad has happened to the woman. By now, people are thinking that this is another of the same old speeches that they, while in school, are obligated to hear. They think that this woman is an abuse survivor, or a nurse, talking about a patient, or a loving sibling, recalling the incredible cancer recovery of a sister or father. The woman is none of these. They know neither who she is nor what she has endured. But unlike them, I know what happened.

I am here in the centre of this audience as her support: when she feels like she can go on no longer, she looks to the place where I am, and I smile, and she knows that she can get through this address. I am always in the same place, regardless of where, or to whom, she recalls the memories that wrench people’s hearts and make this woman’s tears their own.

Despite myself, I cannot help but drift into memories as the woman talks.

I hear the sigh of the wind blowing through the Sheoaks at home. Suddenly, the sigh turns to a shriek and I hear the sound of one metal slicing through another.
I return to the present with a small start; the teenager next to me turns and looks at me, then back at the tearful woman down below us.

The woman overcomes her bout of tears and continues, “It was my fault, I told myself over and over again, even though I now know that there was nothing I could have done to prevent what happened. Teenagers think they are invincible, that nothing they do will ever go wrong…”

Another memory seeps into my thoughts, though this time shapes accompany the sounds.

A long laugh blocks out the sound of the woman and a young man’s smiling face swims into view. I smile too: his happiness is infectious. He has the same wiry brown hair and blue eyes as he does in all of my memories of him, even when we were kids, playing in the tree house in his backyard. He returns to facing the front, still smiling. He turns in his chair suddenly, looking at me, and asks me something. I cannot hear him over the music blaring from the speakers beside me, but I smile back anyway.

There is another face to the left, partially obscured by a pink camouflage-coloured headrest. Singing along to the music at the top of her lungs, short black and pink curls flank her pixie-like face. Telling her to open her eyes and concentrate on not killing us, she replies with a sharp retort, turns the music down slightly and continues singing. I smile to myself: she always was a performer, even when she wasn’t on the stage. I look to my left and see a dozing boy wearing industrial-sized earphones that cover both his ears and the earphones inhabiting them. He does not care for hard rock music, preferring the sounds of the Inca, Maya and Native Americans. To my right, a blonde girl wearing reading glasses and holding a thick Bryce Courtenay volume is trying, unsuccessfully, to have a conversation with the boy in front of her, whom she has been secretly going out with for over a year. The final, and my most important, member of our troupe is sitting on my lap, my arms around her waist, slowly running her thin fingers through my hair. I lean in to her, her soft brown hair in my face, and whisper the three words that created the last smile I ever saw on her beautiful face: I. Love. You.

I hastily wipe away the tear created by remembering the happiest time of my life. I must not let the woman see me cry: it will upset her more than she already is.

I have heard this address so many times; I can recite it word for word in my head along with her: “I believed I was being fair by letting him go, just this once. It was the first time my son had been on a road trip with his friends without a parent going too. I knew the other kids that were going, and they were sensible people whom I had known for well over ten years. ”

As the woman speaks, I see the events she refers to unfolding in my head, along with some she does not know about.

The blue-eyed boy arguing with his mother over why she does not want him to go with the others. Friends convincing their parents that they will not drink drive or take any drugs. The pink-haired girl packing her station wagon with a tent and camping stove. My beautiful girlfriend’s clothes spilling out of her unzipped suitcase onto the sidewalk.

Now that I think about it, if our parents had been more forceful about us staying at home over the long weekend, instead of taking the road trip into the middle of nowhere, the ensuing events would never have happened. The blue-eyed boy’s mother would not be standing below me today just like so many times before, giving the speech that was supposed to stop the same events from recurring.

I check my watch: 1:50 pm. It is almost time. “Everything was going fine,” the woman says. Only a few more seconds to go, I think to myself. “They had a full tank of petrol, a slab of beer in the boot and a ton of CD’s. It was going great until…”

Swiftly, I pull myself into a standing position, supported by my arm braces. I say in a loud, clear voice, so that the entire room can hear me, “Until a four-wheel-drive with an overloaded trailer careered towards us at a hundred and ten kilometres per hour and smashed diagonally into our bonnet and left side.” Every head turned towards me as I moved carefully from the row of seats and into the aisle, continuing, “Alexandra was sitting on my lap, without a seat belt. She didn’t stand a chance. Neither did the boy with the earphones in, Toby, or Samson, my best friend. They were both killed on impact. The driver of the other car, his passenger, Tibby, Abby and I were pulled from the wreck and sent straight to the nearest hospital after the other car’s passenger called 000. The last thing I heard before I passed out was the driver’s wife frantically saying ‘It was an accident! It was an accident! Is everyone okay?’.

“I spent over a month in hospital unconscious. When I awoke, I found out that I would never see my friends alive again. Tibby gave one helluva fight to survive before finally giving up. She was in a coma for two months after I awoke. She died on February 15th 2006 from brain haemorrhaging. The world will never hear her passionate songs ever again. Abby, who hid her love for Samson from her parents because they disapproved of him, died on the operating table December 30th 2005. Samson, the budding artist and my best mate, and Toby, quiet but ever assertive and extremely smart, were both pronounced dead on December 30th. The driver of the four-wheeled-drive barely survived. He lost his left arm from the elbow down and is now in a wheelchair. He will never walk again. His wife was lucky enough to have survived with only a few broken bones. Alexandra, my kind, beautiful, gentle girlfriend, will never say the words ‘I love you’ to me again.

“My name is Michael Robertson and I am 23 years and 2 days old. I lost almost everyone I loved and cared about in a car accident.” Having come to the bottom of the stairs, I ascend the stairs to the stage on which Angela stands. “This is Angela, Samson’s mother. Together we are making our way around Australia to tell everyone at high school the dangers of not wearing a seat belt, and of drink driving. Although Tibby promised not to, she had drunk two cans of beer before driving us to our campsite. It may not seem like much, but it is enough to change your perceptions and reactions to the things around you. Everyone knows it was an accident, but if she had had a faster reaction time, maybe some more of my friends would still be alive today” I look at Angela, who smiles at me, “Now it is up to you to do the right thing and stop our story from becoming yours."
"Too many young people die from making poor decisions on our roads. Do not become just another one of the kids being zipped up in body bags,"
She says, finishing my sentence.

We walk out of the amphitheatre to applause. It seems that, just this once, our message might have got through.


**Although based on a series of government advertisements, this story and its characters are completely fictional, any similarities to actual names or events is coincidental and unintentional**
**needless to say, the story is copyright and i will be very disappointed in anyone that tries to pass it off as their own**

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