Motorcyclist Marco Simoncelli was killed in the Malaysian Grand Prix two weeks ago. I know because it was trending on Twitter. There was also a motorcycle accident that Friday night, two weeks ago. I know this because I sat in the middle of a four-lane road and held the fallen riderʼs hand. He was wearing a black and red helmet, black motorcycle jacket, pale jeans, matching white socks and white Dunlop Volleys. One shoe had come off and was lying just by him. There was something terribly vulnerable about his foot, in such a clean white sock, there on the asphalt, broken glass twinkling all around.

I was home alone watching The Slap. A Speedo-wearing Alex Dimitriades had just walked into his house, dripping in a bathrobe, thrown his arms up into the air and declared himself to be The King. I was marvelling at this vile character when the dialogue was drowned out by the sound of a motorbike roaring along the road. This wasnʼt unusual on a Friday night. I live right at an intersection on a very busy main road. But this bike was particularly loud. The sound was that of a pelican-sized mosquito approaching ones head. I rolled my eyes in frustration and said aloud, ʻYes, we know you have a very fast bike.ʼ Because it is my custom to address inanimate objects and people that I know can not hear me. Shortly after which there was a sound. A sort of smack, a sort of pop. And then there was nothing. Then there was silence.

Iʼve lived here three years and in that time there have been quite a few car accidents outside our apartment. None of them terribly serious. People normally get out of their cars and start assigning blame. Often no-one remembers to call the police, so I do. And that was one of the reasons I looked out the window, I knew it was going to be serious and I wanted to be sure someone was calling an ambulance. There was a car askew, passenger window shattered and three people standing in the middle of the road, two of them with phones out. There was a broken, twisted, surrealistʼs-vision of a motorbike. And there was the motorcyclist, lying on his side, metres from my front door. Somehow I had the presence of mind to put on shoes so as not to get glass in my feet.

There were still cars driving past, horribly close to the motorcyclist. One of them sped as I was trying to cross the road and I swore loudly at them and, er, gesticulated. (Something which is not in my habit to do.) The next slowed and I crossed the lane, to where the motorcyclist was lying on the ground. He was breathing. You could see it, and you could hear it. I can still hear it, the heaving gurgle of a body fighting for life. There were two men and a woman, standing at a respectful distance.

ʻHeʼs breathing,ʼ the woman said. She was Greek or Italian, older, perhaps a grandmother.

ʻHeʼs breathing,ʼ said the tall man, now off the phone. ʻI rolled him on his side, he was choking on the blood. Thatʼs really all you can do. Heʼs breathing, heʼs fine.ʼ

The second guy was on the phone. He seemed younger than me, a tradie maybe. He was describing the location, looking around for landmarks. I told him the name of the cross street and he nodded, pointed at the phone and rolled his eyes. ʻIʼve already told them twice.ʼ

I peered down at the motorcyclist. Through the small window of his helmet I could see his eyes were open slightly, and blood coming from his nose. Lots. Other than the rise and fall of his chest there was no movement. He had a stillness to him which I had never witnessed before. His hands were glove-less, but seemed unscathed. I knelt down and took the strangerʼs hand whilst wondering to myself if he was okay with that. I squeezed but he did not squeeze back. I told him he was going to be okay, stroked my thumb back and forth on this hand like I do for my little boy when heʼs fallen over. Like my mother used to do for me. And thatʼs all that could be done. The guy on the phone counted every breath to the emergency operator while the tall man repeated over and over that he was breathing, he was fine. Fine.

Another man approached. ʻYou should take off his helmet.ʼ

ʻNo,ʼ said the tall man. ʻToo much glass.ʼ

ʻYou shouldnʼt move his neck,ʼ I said.

And the sound: in, out, in, out. Labored. Gurgling.

I noticed another person hovering by the car, a young woman, maybe twenty. She was shaking, fragments of glass clinging to her clothes like glitter. No-one else seemed to notice her there. I asked if she was hurt and she shook her head. There was nothing more to be said, nothing more to be done. I watched the motorcyclistʼs unmoving face. Listened to every breath of his wounded, shocked body. Kept brushing my thumb back and forth on his hand until a woman in a blue uniform came jogging through the stopped traffic. She was an off-duty paramedic she said. She was calm, casual almost, leaned over the motorcyclist and said, ʻHi. Can you hear me? Whatʼs your name mate?ʼ He didnʼt respond. I let go of his hand, stood up to make room. Then the ambulance and police arrived. I had no witness account to give. There was nothing more I could do. I watched for a while as firemen and paramedics crowded around him, set up spotlights, unloaded equipment. I didnʼt want to be someone just standing around, gawking. So I went back inside. There was nothing else to be done.

They worked on him for another hour and a half – there beneath my lounge-room window – before he was moved into the ambulance and taken away. I did a google search on Saturday and discovered that he is twenty-three. He is in intensive care with severe head and chest injuries. That is all I know.

I have written about him here because, other than hold his hand, that is all I know how to do.

I can still hear him breathing.

Claire Zorn

Claire Zorn is a Sydney-based writer of both fiction and non-fiction. Her work has been published in various literary journals and she has a particular passion for writing young adult fiction.

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