Dan Keck CC
Centre of Attention
In the summer of twenty-twenty, me and mum had spent four months in very close proximity. It had strengthened our relationship significantly, but four months can be a long time.
We’d had a lot to smoke during our quarantine, so when we set off so that she could drive me to Lizzy’s, she was more sober than she’d been for a while.
Honestly, there wasn’t one occasion where she showed any inkling that she resented taking me places: I am unable to drive, as I have schizophrenia.
The roads of Gosport were quiet, but not empty. As she drove through and out of Fareham, she kept looking at me. At first, she took quick glances, but soon, I noticed that we were veering off the road and I shouted at her, snapping her out of these tiny trances.
It happened a few times and I feared for my safety.
As we approached the roundabout to join the m27, I spoke to her harshly. I said, “Mum, you keep looking at me. I’m fine. I don’t need anything. I’m twenty-eight. You don’t need to check me. Just please, watch the fucking road. I love you. Watch the road.”
The traffic took off. “I’m really hot,” she said.
“My back is,” she said, and she fidgeted in her seat.
I loudly said, “Mum, watch what you’re doing.”
She turned her head back to the road as we slipped into the fast lane. I didn’t dare to look at her in case it prompted her to look at me.
Terrifyingly, in a ghostly echo, came the quiet words: “What am I doing?”
I said, “You’re driving me to Lizzy’s, what are you talking about?”
The car continued to accelerate.
“What am I doing?” she said, in precisely the same way she’d said it, moments before.
I looked at her and saw that her hazel-green eyes had glazed over. All traces of my mother were missing from her face. The odometer reached seventy-five.
“What am I doing?” Again the identical sounds echoed.
“Fuck,” I said. Then I took the steering wheel gently in my left hand. With my right, I stroked her hair and tried to comfort her.
“What am I doing?” she said.
I said, “I love you Angela. Everything’s going to be okay.” I didn’t recognise my own voice.
“What am I doing?”
Ninety miles an hour.
I began to guide the car across the four lanes of traffic. I was blind to the passage of cars behind us. I braced for impact and death, then pulled us into a turning and round a corner. I didn’t recognise the noises I was hearing. I was, at this point, distracted by auditory hallucinations, an ambient cacophony: I could hear machines straining and grinding to sudden halts, then starting with fearsome force; I could hear friends from my past, their voices came from the dashboard, the motorway, the backseat of the car; I could hear Gramps.
As we traversed the incline of the junction, the car slowed from ninety, all the way down to twenty. Mum must’ve taken her foot off the accelerator: I must’ve gotten through to her.
I pulled the handbrake up on the hard shoulder, and we skidded to a stop.
I took her seatbelt off and then mine, then I got out of the car and called for an ambulance, as mum went from pale to blue.
The woman on the phone asked me, “Where exactly are you?”
I said, “At the Fareham end of the m27, on a turning into Portsmouth.”
She said, “Yes, but where?”
Kathy Bates flashed through my memory. It was her character in that dumb Adam Sandler film, ‘The Waterboy.’ I could hear an exaggerated, Southern-American accent saying, “Snakes don’t really have parts, but if they did, this would be the knee.”
I said, “I don’t know.”
I flagged down a car. A man stopped and rolled down his window. He wore enormous, opaque sunglasses and had a huge smile. He said, “What are you doing?”
“My mum has had a fit. Can you google exactly where we are? I need to tell the woman on 999.”
An ambulance came into view and I hung up the phone and dismissed the gentleman who pulled over for us. A tall paramedic emerged from the front and squinted at me through thick glasses.
“What are you doing?”
“My mum is having a seizure: the first in years, I believe.”
He tilted his head. “Why’s she in the driver’s seat?”
“She was actually driving when she started to fit. I managed to pull us over, here.”
He nodded, just another day at the office, and walked towards my mother.
I called Lizzy, she answered, and sang to me, “Hello!”
“My mum just had a fit on the motorway, I love you.”
“What?” she said, “I love you too, where did this happen? Are you alright?”
I said, “I’m fine but I’ve got to go. I’ll call you when I know how long I’m gonna be.”
“Are you still coming?” she said.
“I hope so. I’ll call you when I can.”
“Okay. Love you. Be safe,” she said.
A man dressed for the pub with a hastily fashioned sling on his arm alighted from the back of the ambulance to stretch his legs. He was followed by a second paramedic, who rolled out a tall gurney.
I said to the paramedic, “What’s going on?”
She said, “We were actually driving this gentleman to the hospital. We pulled over because you were stood in the road.” Meanwhile, she and the other paramedic managed my mother onto the gurney with considerable strength and patience.
“I’m gonna wait for another one to get me ‘ere. I ‘ope your mum’s okay,” said the pub man with the sling.
“Are you sure?” I said, just as another ambulance pulled up.
“There you go, it don’t even matter,” he said.
I stepped in the back and slotted in behind my mother’s head, then drifted into a dissociative catatonia. Off in the distance, I could hear myself telling somebody her medical history.
Then she said, “Where is my son?”
I said, “I’m here, ma.”
She spun round. I resented being the one thing that she was looking for.
Ferris Ty Taylor was born in Portsmouth, raised in Gosport and lives in Brighton. This is his first publication. He has a BA in Creative Writing.
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