There is a particular sound to a scooter being crushed by a pick-up truck. A scrape of heavy plastic across asphalt followed by a curtailed scream and a shuddering crunch.
We were in a taxi heading to the hospital for the three month scan. The wife was pregnant and we had stayed in town, attending the St. Andrew’s Society’s ball. It was a late night with dancing (we were terrible), whisky drinking (I was quite good) and haggis (utterly delicious).
Morning had, as morning does, cracked the sky. The thick black curtains of the hotel didn’t prevent the early alarm rousing us bleary eyed from our slumber. The wife was, obviously, sober and I was pretending to be less hung-over than I actually was. We were both excited; a third of the way through the pregnancy and we couldn’t wait to see him again – even in his barely formed state we were proud. We were also looking forward to announcing it formally to friends and family .
The taxi was plusher than usual in that it didn’t smell of cigarette smoke and Tiger Balm. We were chatting about the future, who would he grow up to be? What would our lives be like? What if we were rubbish at being parents?
We laughed at our own lack of preparedness – I surreptitiously necked aspirin.
And then the noise.
It was so early that the roads were remarkably clear for Bangkok so it was more shocking that the two vehicles managed to somehow converge.
We heard a scream; the chubby woman riding pillion skidded along the blackened tarmac in an upright seated position, almost comically waiving her arms in annoyed disbelief. She appeared more indignant than hurt.
The man driving the scooter disappeared under the fat tyres of the truck. I saw his pelvis hold out for a second against the weight before giving way, the head followed, the scooter disintegrated. He seemed to be swallowed by the darkness under the 4×4 which continued to drive over him.
Our taxi driver sucked air between his teeth but didn’t slow at all. We sat, sickened by what we had seen. Aware of the bitter irony of our witnessing this death.
I still think of the man that was crushed under the truck. I wonder if he had a young child and how they now cope. I wonder if mine will ever have to.
The abstraction of death becoming concrete has served to propel me to a life in which I try live to the most. I fear death not for my own ending but for the things I will never see. My son’s first rugby match, his first partner, his first steps into adulthood. My wife’s success in her baking and designing brilliance, the look of excited fear of being pregnant (we hope), the way she runs massive distances and pretends it’s no big thing.
I hope that when I die it is an event tinged by sadness but not tragedy. I hope that it is the gentle end of a long life lived to the fullest rather than the abrupt snatch of a careless driver.