|Rusty barbed wire: |
The mortal enemy of the human neck.
Oh yes, and here's the pic credit.
Not on purpose. More like the universe having a taste and spitting me out.
The first time I nearly died was from a freak wave, the second time was from the Welsh God of combi vans. Now I'll tell you about the third time, and boy, was this close to third time lucky!
School holidays were an especially traumatic time for me, as it meant spending exactly half of them with my father. No matter what he was doing or where he was going (or what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go) the custody settlement stipulated my brother and I were to spend half of all our school holidays with my father.
This particular holiday, Dad took my brother and I for a very long car trip to Warrnambool. Many great writers (who are now very broken people) have written about the pain of incredibly long road trips with young children. This is not the near death bit. It's boring. You came for the near death, and by golly you'll get it.
This is a game where several children, giggly on wizz-fizz, think it's a brilliant idea to run around, in a farmyard, in the middle of the night, with torches. Chasing each other and calling out, "You're it!"
You don't want to be "it". You want to be as far away from whoever is "it" as possible. (Usually the kid who can't count when you put your spuds in and say "dib-dib-dib") (spuds are fists. It's mandatory to say "dib-dib-dib" before you start counting off spuds. I don't know. I didn't make up the rules.)
Whoever is not "it" then tears off before the kid who can't count properly (and is probably crying) has to now find everyone. In the dark. With a torch.
Meanwhile, everyone else finds a safe place to hide, or tries to sneak to base and scream, "I win!" To be honest, I'm a bit hazy about the rules. Except for the "dib-dib-dib" bit.
I'm at an unfamiliar farm, loads of kids running around, me tearing off into the night with my good chum Kate (also on an access visit with her dad, I think). Hey, it was 1981, there was an avalanche of divorces back then because the 'no fault' law had only come in in 1978 or something.
Anyway, I'm running, and for a girl with bad asthma, the country night air made me feel AMAZING! I put on some amazing speed. Now, if you've seen the picture above, you know this is going to get real messy. Kate, running beside me, starts to say, "Hang on, I think there's a –"
– The English language is sadly lacking in words to describe the noise your neck makes when you run full-pelt into a rusty barb-wire –
I barely felt it. Obviously, I knew I'd run into something, because my body stopped going forward, hit some kind of force-field (that would be the fence) and flew backwards. I managed to land on my feet! (take that clumsy people!)
The other clue that I'd hit something was the sudden warmth all over my neck. Being a curious child, I put my palm to my neck. It felt super warm and - whoa! - slippery!
I couldn't see what I'd done, but Kate could. She had a hard time closing her mouth for some reason, but when she did she said, "Don't scream or we'll get into trouble."
The golden rule of childhood. If you're having fun, and you lose a limb, for christssake don't scream or the parents will come and then the fun's over.
Kate shone her torch on me and I saw blood on my hands. Lots of blood. As much as we didn't want to go inside, I would have gotten into even more trouble if the blood dirtied up my favourite cardigan. So we had to find the parental units. Anybody's would do. It didn't have to be mine. In fact, one of the dads took one look at me and said, "Don't let your Dad see that."
Because my Dad passes out at the sight of blood. Someone ushered me into the bathroom where they dabbed at my claret-coloured neck . . . and put a thick layer of first aid creme on it. "It's too big for a band-aid."
Nobody offered to drive me to the hospital for stitches, because
a) they'd been drinking and it would have been too dangerous to drive.
b) I'd stopped bleeding after about half an hour
c) apparently I hadn't stopped talking the whole time, so I must have been fine.
The worst part of it was, I had some kind of super-human mega-healing and after only five days the scab completely fell away. By the time the new school term came around, you could barely see anything. Nobody believed me when I told them I'd run into a barbwire fence on my holidays and nearly killed myself.
BUT, the thin, whispery scar right next to my jugular vein is still there to this day.
You believe me, don't you?