After something like 2.75 years in Vietnam, I'm taking the low road back to civilisation.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

#6 Keith's phone call.

In May of 2008 while teaching I received a missed call from my best mate, which was followed up by a text message asking for a call back. Whether or not the text message alluded to a less serious situation I cannot remember, but upon getting home I hadn’t yet returned the call. Keith called again and left me with tragic news that stunned me and left me thousands of miles away from a good friend who was in hospital effectively braindead and being kept alive by a machine.

Having left work on his motorbike, Gordon, experienced on mopeds but fairly new to his 600cc sportsbike, had been cruising down the outside of a line of stationary cars near my childhood dentist, when a car pulled out from a side road directly into the path of his bike and sent him flying. The impact upon his landing was such that Gordon’s life was instantly destroyed through no fault of his own or the driver of the car.

The distance numbed my reaction somewhat, I’m fairly sure. A couple of years later I had some closure on this, when Zoe started fitting on the ground outside a bar in the early hours of the morning. I think it was the air of helplessness that surrounded the people involved that connected Gordon’s last 24 hours to Zoe’s allergic reaction. A very sudden and inexplicable

The gravity of this didn’t affect my motorbike driving style in Vietnam at all, as the traffic systems and motorists’ awareness of motorbike riders are so vastly contrasting between the UK and SaiGon. The main effect it had on me was a realisation that life is so short. An obvious one maybe, but any death I had experienced until that point had been someone considerably older than me, who I hadn’t had any real attachment to. Gordon had, of course, vastly increased his odds of a premature death by jumping on such a machine.

I think this incident contributed to breaking down certain inhibitions I had previously held. Saying more explicitly what I think or how I feel is clearly not a problem for me these days. There is considerably less thought about what could go wrong while I consider doing something, instead more focus on how to make it work. This is more a by-product of an overall rise in confidence and skills from my experiences in Vietnam.

I never once actually spoke to him after moving to SaiGon, and only exchanged a few messages with him where all he spoke about was his bike and how fast he has managed to make it go. Which is a difficult last exchange to deal with, despite the fact his fatal crash was at fairly low speed. Keith recently reminded me that it's been over 2 years. I still can't quite it's been that long, and that this is the third trip home since his death.

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