Today’s theme: blood.
Their bodies turn toward us in unison, raising their arms in a way that is somehow delicate and urgent all at once. We pull onto the side of the road and Jordan and I are out of the car striding toward this cluster of waving people in the middle of the road. Ben’s stuck in the back seat of the car, peering out the window. There’s a guy in a bucket hat and one in a Hawaiian shirt. A guy with dreadlocks is talking into a mobile phone, squinting his eyes either to block out the sun or to make sure he doesn’t cry. None of them are wearing shoes. He’s splayed out on the road like he’s trying to be consumed by the bitumen and only then do I wonder why I walked toward this, why I thought I had anything to offer, how I thought I could help. His friend is crouched over him, holding his helmet still and shivering with adrenaline. A white motorbike is spun out on its side a few metres away. A blue motorbike perched neatly on its stand on the road’s shoulder. I don’t ask what happened. I crouch next to him. He’s breathing, and it sounds like a terrible snore. Blood bubbles on his lips. I rub my hand in circles on his crouching friend’s neoprene-clad back, between shoulder blades that run down into two muscular arms poised white glowing and freckled, cradling his friend’s head like he could unstitch the last few minutes from existence. I ask his name, and he shudders ‘Blake,’ without moving his eyes from the closed, almost peaceful eyes resting long lashes behind the smashed-in visor. Salt rolls down his face and falls onto the black plastic crown of the sighing helmet. We follow every laboured breath like it is sacred. Blake, shaking, worries about the blood congealing in thick bright swathes across his cheekbones. Jordan runs to get him some paper towel and his enormous white hands delicately soak the blood from his friend’s face. I keep rubbing my hand in circles over his back, cooing that he’s doing really well and keep going and he’s gunna be fine and the ambulance is on its way and just kind of saying his name over and over like it might make him surface from the 50cm gap between his face looking down at his friend’s helmet that is his whole world right now. The guy with the dreads on the phone to the ambulance is telling the operator every time he breathes. Now. Now. Now. Blake’s hands are moving like sparrows whose bones have gotten too big for their skin, ‘the blood’s – huh – ah, the blood’s getting in his eyes, can you – ‘ We are all vibrating in the wires of the mobile phone, the dreadlocked guy our mouthpiece, our assurance that an ambulance is on its way. Eyelids flutter and he starts groaning, moving his legs. All these men rush in to hold him down. Suddenly he’s human again. ’They said we gotta talk to him. Talk to him.’ I take a paper towel and I am wiping thick red from his cheeks, dabbing at the streams running down from his forehead. I don’t even know his name. I’m glad he’s moving his legs. Maybe that means no spinal damage. I’m glad he’s moaning, I’m glad his clotted throat works, I’m glad the helmet is on his head, that the visor seems to be the only smashed part of him. Everyone is yelling and holding him down to stop him from moving and I am just stroking his face, trying to speak as level as I can. The screams feel like they’re ripping from the cavity between the bottom of my lungs. The gum leaves are stirring, closing in on us from above. The ambulance is somewhere. ‘Diego. His name’s Diego.’