It was the 1st of December, 1996, at about 9 am. The sky was that blue that only a perfect Karoo summer’s day can produce, stretching across the landscape from outside Cradock to what felt like forever. Underworld’s Born Slippy played (this may, or may not be true, time dissolves and distorts memories, but I like this one and it’s a great song, so I’m going to keep it. It was the year Trainspotting came out. Ewan McGregor. Swoon) as we slipped off that road and rolled, the sound of metal crunching playing in my ears until it stopped sudddenly, replaced by silence. The car was right-side up and I could see blood on the windscreen. I wasn’t sure whose it was.
It is now the 1st of December, 2016. That is twenty years later. Twenty years that have slipped through my fingers like mercury. I won’t be blithe and deny that there haven’t been times that I’ve screamed with frustration, but who hasn’t? It doesn’t take a wheelchair to make frustration.
No, it’s been twenty years just like all of your twenty years, filled, in different proportions for each of us, with happiness and sadness, ill-advised love affairs and love affairs that were transluscent in their delight, oodles of normalcy, sharp spikes of hurt that I thought I’d never recover from, but did, Ghost Pops and cake and champagne with bubbles that delighted, moments of such beauty that they left me breathless and moments of darkness that left me gasping and, over-riding it all, the love of so, so many people.
I am lucky, I do know this. So lucky. I broke that day, but my people tied me together again, with tiny bows of love and ribbons of care and kindness. Four months later I went to graduation (as I’d promised my disbelieving doctor I would, in those first few weeks of getting put back together again). I may have broken my neck, but I sure-as-hell didn’t break my stubborness. I hope I never do.
And still now, twenty years later, I am kept together by my lovely family and friends. The people who’ve known me for forever and those who have known me not-for-forever, those who I see regularly in Real Life, those I only see sometimes, and those who I see only online.
You are my people. You keep me tied together.
You bloody rock.