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“No matter how you twist it,
Life stays frozen in the headlights”
– John Ashbery

There were seven of us: five in the car and two in the boot. It was 9.45pm on Saturday May 2, 2009 – the Labour Day long weekend. We were driving the 10-minute trip from a barbecue in the sticks back home to Toowoomba.

I’d shotgunned the front passenger seat of the 1989 gold Ford Fairlane. Short and soft-bodied with a black mop, I was a poet moonlighting as a hoon. Tim sat back-middle. He was broad-shouldered and short-haired like Will, back-right. Henry was in the seat behind me, tall and thin. He had the same blond hair and blue eyes as Dom, the driver.

Hamish – pale and lanky, with thick black hair – was in the boot with Nick, thin brown hair above a squat frame. Our second lift had fallen through at the last minute, so they’d drawn the short straw. I didn’t witness the process of their entry. Teenage boys in country towns don’t stage committee meetings before climbing into car boots.

We were in our final year of high school. Tim and I went to St Mary’s, a Catholic athletes factory in Toowoomba’s western suburbs. The others went to Downlands, an elite co-educational school on the north side. Eighteen months earlier, Nick had been imported to Downlands on a sporting scholarship. Thanks to Nick, Tim and I had been consorting with the sons and daughters of old Queensland money.

Up front there was nothing between the road and me except the windscreen and thin air. The speakers blasted Wonderwall by Oasis. My memory is a blinking mix of lyrics belted out incoherently and the stink of alcohol, sweat and cigarettes – a million things and nothing in particular. The speedometer rose: 60, 70, 80, 90. The New England Highway, half-lit and disappearing, burnt a blur into my brain.

My brand-new iPhone vibrated. A message from my soon to be girlfriend Frida, asking about our date the next day. There was a swift change in our direction. My gaze shifted between the competing sheets of glass. We’d drifted onto the left-hand shoulder of the four-lane highway. The back tyre spun out in the mouth of a gravel driveway. This was the split second of our unravelling.

Dom reefed on the steering wheel, a knee-jerk attempt to regain control. We slid into the gravel, out and in again. Within seconds we’d travelled to the median strip, then traversed to the wrong side of the highway. By rights I should’ve been the bullseye, but we scraped a tree stump crossing the median strip, spinning us another 90 degrees.

Screams howled from the back seat as we flew into a flood of high beams. I’m dead, I thought. Then it hit: another car, speed meeting speed, like two protons colliding. There was a glimpse of black as my head reeled from soft impact against the dashboard. After that, everything went berserk. Liquids pissed from engines. Radiators hissed with steam. Car alarms out-screamed one another. Wipers whipped across shattered windscreens.

Sick sounds issued from the lips of four friends in the grip of oblivion. Dom lay face down on the steering wheel. The back seat was a mess of erect necks and flaccid limbs. I reached out and shook Tim’s arm, calmly and then much more urgently.

“Oi!” I yelled. “Wake up!”

First responders at the scene of the crash.Credit:Nine News

A team of swift Samaritans assembled, divvying up the injured between them. An off-duty nurse joined a man at the driver’s side window. “Get me out of here,” I screamed. “Sweetie,” she said, “I need you to sit still. Is that something you can do for me?” I scanned for an exit route and found one through the driver’s window. The woman’s eyes went wide. “No! Don’t!” I ignored her advice and pitched my hands into the void across Dom.

The first responders yanked me to safety. I scooted to the boot of the crushed Fairlane. “Wait!” said the man, or the woman, or maybe someone else. The back cavity had been ripped open like a tin of tuna. Hamish reclined against the bumper, eyes closed. A woman rubbed my shoulder.

“He’ll be okay,” she said. I searched below, above and beside the boot. “We’re missing someone,” I shouted. “Another one?” said one of the first responders.

I located Nick 10 metres away, lying parallel to the fog line. He’d flown head-first from the boot as we crossed the median strip. A crooked Z was carved between his hairline and eyebrow. The glow from my iPhone revealed the white shock of his skull. “Ambulances are coming,” said a stranger.

Soon, the dead end of the highway was alive.

Cones of red and blue spun on the road like strobe lights. Fire engines. Police cars. Ambulances. An endless stream of hi-vis men and women pirouetted between each other. Amid a Milky Way of witnesses, my bones glowed with guilt and loneliness.

“I didn’t have so much as a splintered fingernail. Nor did I get the luxury of a concussion. But the crash was a black hole expanding in the high beams, a fresh centre of gravity for my shell-shocked body to hang around like a dead planet.”Credit:James Brickwood

Will had died on impact. Hamish died early Sunday morning in Toowoomba. Henry was airlifted to Brisbane, where he died on Wednesday night, his organs donated to strangers.

Nick was taken to the Gold Coast at level 5 on the Glasgow Coma Scale. Tim was airlifted to Brisbane at level 3, the highest (the scale runs from 3, completely unresponsive, to 15, responsive). Dom woke up and was sent to Toowoomba Hospital with a litany of broken bones. He recuperated in the same ward as the other driver, a man going home from a poker night, who also suffered serious injuries.

I didn’t have so much as a splintered fingernail. Nor did I get the luxury of a concussion. But the crash was a black hole expanding in the high beams, a fresh centre of gravity for my shell-shocked body to hang around like a dead planet.

Journalists incorrectly reported that the Fairlane had rolled and burst into flames. Rumours spread like wildfire that the driver had been drunk and speeding. Soon, strangers were speculating that the front-seat passenger had reached over and yanked the steering wheel, causing the accident. A barbecue for 10 teenagers became a wild open house party attended by hundreds. The weirdest thing wasn’t how deeply people believed their forgeries of trauma. It was that complete strangers seemed more capable of feeling real grief than me.

Will’s and Hamish’s funerals were held on a blue-skied Friday, six days after the collision. Hamish’s service was at Downlands, where he’d been a boarder since grade 8. “How many people do you think are coming?” asked Dom, arm in a sling and blue eyes bloodshot, as we arrived. An avid photographer, Dom had spent the day of the accident taking pictures of Nick, Hamish and Henry playing rugby at the same place as the funeral. “I dunno,” I said. “Maybe a thousand.”

The attendees packed the main hall and spilled into the courtyards. Students wore blue blazers and striped ties with pins for extra-curricular activities. There were nine eulogists, including two of Hamish’s sisters, who also went to Downlands. Hamish had savoured physical activity: cricket, rugby union, shooting and waterskiing. He also had an encyclopaedic knowledge of Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings. He united the factions of tough boarders and bright day kids.

 Lech (left), and Dom (right) would attend the funeral of their mate, sportsman and avid Harry Potter fan Hamish (centre), six days after the collision.

Lech (left), and Dom (right) would attend the funeral of their mate, sportsman and avid Harry Potter fan Hamish (centre), six days after the collision.Credit:Courtesy of Lech Blaine

I was struck by both survivor’s guilt and imposter syndrome. Hugs failed to allay the insanity of witnessing a dead friend get carried away in a timber casket. It was all too civil. Dom and I stood together and adrift, waiting for something to give.

Most of the mourners travelled in a motorcade to Will’s funeral on the other side of town. Upon arrival, Dom and I selected a pew towards the front of the cathedral. The sun shone brightly through windows stained yellow and blue.

A keen guitarist and aspiring pilot, Will had already started flying old warbird planes over Toowoomba. A logbook, an airport card and earmuffs were placed on his coffin. Will’s sister recited a passage her brother had written about his love of the sky: “Some people might say that freedom is being alone in the bush with the only sounds being murmurs from the birds, but I believe freedom is at 5000 feet with no other sound but the engine roaring.”

In his father’s oversized blazer, Dom wept with a directness I came to envy. “It’s okay, mate,” I murmured, the survivor who couldn’t cry.

Outside, the sky had faded into a greyer shade of blue. News crews recorded the procession of the casket to the hearse. Young men exhaled through quivering noses, mouths closed, afraid of the sounds that might emerge if they opened them.

Hamish (left) and Henry, a First XV rugby player and “singer of songs” who had hoped to become an actor.

Hamish (left) and Henry, a First XV rugby player and “singer of songs” who had hoped to become an actor. Credit:Courtesy of Lech Blaine

The third funeral was held on the front lawns of Downlands, nine days after Henry’s death. The morning brimmed with déjà vu and newness. Blue skies. Bouquets on a brown coffin. On top were placed a guitar, car keys, a First XV jersey and boots, and a pillowcase. We listened to psalms, hymns, prayers, and blessings. Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah hissed from the speakers.

I’d only known Henry for a year, but we’d kindled a swift intimacy. He was ranked fourth on my list of MySpace friends; I was fifth on his. Henry’s best mate Nick wanted to be a professional rugby league player. My best mate Tim planned to join the army after finishing a bricklaying apprenticeship. Henry and I talked about moving to Brisbane to study arts degrees. He dreamed of being an actor.

On the Sunday prior, Henry’s mother Melissa had called to ask if I would deliver a eulogy. On the way to see Nick at the Gold Coast Hospital, after visiting Tim in Brisbane that morning, I should have politely declined. Henry had closer mates who weren’t gripped by the challenge of being a stoic survivor. But I said yes.

My eulogy featured endless punchlines. “Where do you start with Henry?” I said. “He was the singer of songs, the stealer of shirts, the guy with a thousand clichés, who always got the best-looking girl, and never paid for a feed in his life.” I presented Henry the way most teenage boys want to see themselves: funny, popular, brave, uncomplicated. Henry’s friends were in stitches.

Melissa was dismayed by the abbreviations. “Henry was so much more than that, wasn’t he?” she asked, not bitterly, but sifting for reality.

What if I’d told the audience that Henry’s talent wasn’t sleeping around, but having platonic friendships with women? That he didn’t resist the friend zone like it was the Bermuda Triangle? That he was a son not afraid to say “I love you” to his mother, alone or in front of others?

The sun crept into the west and shone behind us. Mourners fanned themselves with memorial booklets, necks red and armpits wet. A guy wearing a kilt played the bagpipes and led an idling hearse past a dehydrated guard of honour. As Henry’s body was driven to the crematorium, we retreated to the school dining room for refreshments. Waiters lingered with plates of finger food.

“How are you really holding up?” asked a mate’s father. “A lot of people are going to piss in your pocket. But grief isn’t a kissing contest.”

“It’s a terrible tragedy,” I said, “but I’m just hanging in there.”

Later, alone, I wondered: Where am I hanging? I was neither hanging, nor holding up, nor falling down. Just aimlessly continuing.

“Fearless athlete” Nick before the crash – which sent him into a coma before a miracle recovery.

“Fearless athlete” Nick before the crash – which sent him into a coma before a miracle recovery.Credit:Courtesy of Lech Blaine

Nick was officially a miracle. Doctors had predicted he’d need 24-hour care for the rest of his life, yet three weeks after the crash he was transferred from the Gold Coast to the brain injury rehabilitation unit at Toowoomba Hospital. I staged sleepovers on the La-Z-Boy beside his bed. We watched slapstick comedies. “I’m glad this happened to me,” he said, “and not you.”

“Is this your heroic way of calling me a pussy?” I asked.

“Nah. But yeah. You’re a bit of a pussy.”

“Thanks. You took a coma for the team.”

Nick and I had met as bogan 10-year-olds. St Mary’s was a budget private school for the taciturn sons of aspirational Catholics. I’d just transferred from a tiny public primary to a frightening new world of navy ties and Hail Marys. I spent the first morning tea sitting alone and trying not to cry. Nick – a fearless athlete – sat beside the chubby new kid, who had a stutter and a silent h in his strange name.

“What’s your name?” he asked.

“Lech,” I said.

“Is that short for Lechtor?“

“No. I was named after a famous P-P-Polish politician.”

“Cool,” he said, mercifully. For the next 10 minutes, my first friend tried with increasing success to make me piss myself with laughter, rather than anxiety.
Nick’s rapid improvement was bittersweet. I envisioned Tim following suit, but day after day, my best mate stayed deeply asleep in the state capital.

While we both had low voices, Tim and I generally contradicted each other. His bedroom was clean; mine was a mess. He was a Christian bricklayer. I wrote poetry in my spare time and dreamed of being a left-wing politician. A few months before the crash, we’d co-captained our house to victory at the St Mary’s swimming carnival. Tim was a gifted swimmer. I wasn’t. He’d secured crucial points in the pool while I led chants in the grandstand. After we’d raised the trophy, he’d tackled me, fully clothed, into the deep end. Lungfuls of laughter released a jet stream of bubbles through the chlorine.

Now Tim was in the high-dependence unit of a Brisbane hospital, stuck at 5 on the Glasgow Coma Scale. I took Friday off school to pay a visit.

“Timmy,” said his mum. “Lech is here to see you.” I watched Tim’s eyelids, but they stayed shut. A hose in his windpipe provided oxygen. Tubes through the nostrils filled his stomach with food. “I’ll leave you guys to have a chat,” she said. “Tell him to wake up, hey?”

I sat silently beside Tim, drowned by the strange and dangerous weight of all the painful phrases I was aching and incapable of saying to him. Wake up. My life is over without you. “Pray for him,” said his mum. “We need a miracle, Lech.”

Tim believed in God. He was morally opposed to smoking. I was an atheist like my publican father, and saw human beings as intelligent chimpanzees. Our friendship was like a Bible parable: the optimistic bricklayer and the pessimistic poet. This was always the biggest schism between us. Optimism never made sense to me.

For months, medical experts worked tirelessly to reanimate the neural pathways between Tim’s brain cells. Finally, five months after the impact, his eyelids opened. This time he was capable of answering yes to questions by blinking. “Do you remember Lech?” his mother asked on my first visit after her son woke up. Tim blinked.

Others celebrated. I feigned elation, but eye contact was painful. Tim could see the difference between us. The breakthrough ruined my delusion that once a patient wakes from a coma, they go straight back to normal. This was the new normal: painstaking improvements to a permanent brain injury.

Nick, Lech and Dom, two months after the accident.

Nick, Lech and Dom, two months after the accident. Credit:Courtesy of Lech Blaine

My mateship with Nick had effectively finished by the end of high school. He recovered quickly enough to graduate. There were drunken fights and slights behind each other’s back at Schoolies Week. But those events alone couldn’t explain the depth of the indifference between us.

“You’ve changed, Lech,” he said to me one night.

“Since when?” I asked, smirking to cover the hurt.

“Since the crash,” he said. “You think you’re better than me.”

Nick was staying in Toowoomba to paint trucks for a living. I’d been accepted to study political science at the University of Queensland, a sandstone campus on the Brisbane River. The plan was to airbrush the accident from my existence, and find a safe seat for the Labor Party by the age of 30, thereby achieving my father’s dream. Nick seemed like an anchor to my uncouth youth.

He wasn’t blameless in the end of our friendship, but I let him slip away without a fight.

My reinvention in Brisbane didn’t go to plan. By the first anniversary of the crash, I was entering a nervous breakdown. Nightmares about Tim, Will, Hamish and Henry were followed by terrifying episodes of sleep paralysis. Insomnia was the only coping mechanism for bad dreams.

At the end of May, I barely slept for a week. I felt guilt about happiness; guilt about sadness; guilt about feeling guilt; guilt about not feeling guilt. Suicide seemed like the only solution to the one-size-fits-all affliction of survivor’s guilt.

At the height of my suicidal ideation, I drove back to Toowoomba for the 18th birthday party of a mate, where I drank myself into oblivion. But I couldn’t maintain the façade of the grateful survivor. I jumped back behind the wheel and sped to my mother’s house. A cop intercepted me. As a P-plater, I needed to blow 0.00. At the police station, the numbers on the machine read 0.217. In some ways, I was lucky to flame out so young.

The magistrate provided a lenient sentence, and ordered me to receive life-saving attention for depression. I quit scheming for a political career, and decided to start studying English literature and creative writing instead.

A year later, in August 2011, Dom faced the Toowoomba Magistrates Court charged with three counts of dangerous driving causing death, and two counts of dangerous driving causing grievous bodily harm. The night before the verdict, I went to Dom’s place for dinner. He told me his barrister warned him to expect a prison sentence. “Seven to eight years,” Dom said. “But that’s fine.”

It didn’t matter how many marathons I ran … I still woke choking on the bitter taste of an anguish that was both cryptic and predictable.

Forensic investigators testified that Dom was travelling at approximately 94 kilometres an hour in a 100 zone. Contrary to rumours, he was totally sober. It was an accident caused by a split-second moment of inattentiveness. The jury found Dom not guilty of all charges.

Congratulations mate, I messaged him. But the life of a survivor is an anticlimax. For the next seven years, I stayed on the same antidepressant while undergoing regular therapy with a psychologist. I ran 40 kilometres a week. It didn’t matter how many marathons I ran, though, or how readily I accepted therapy. Occasionally, I still woke choking on the bitter taste of an anguish that was both cryptic and predictable. Will, Hamish and Henry were dead. I would never see or speak to them again. We couldn’t unsee the abyss, or unfeel the grief from three missing existences.

On May 2, 2018 – the ninth anniversary of the accident – I was back living in Toowoomba for the first time since high school, trying to finish a memoir about the crash. I hadn’t seen Nick since a 21st birthday party in 2013, and we hadn’t messaged each other since 2015. “Hey mate, thinking of you today,” I wrote to break the ice after so much silence. “How’s life been? We should catch up.”

We arranged to meet for lunch one Saturday afternoon. I punched his address into Google Maps. He lived 100 metres from my new share house. Nick answered the door with paint in his crooked eyebrows. Now a father of two, he’d put on some weight since high school. “Nick,” I said.

“Hey, Lechtor,” he said. “You look good, man. How are ya?”

I had grey hair and the unintentional suntan of a marathon runner. “I live around the corner from here,” I said. We shook hands for the second time in quick succession, chuckling at the odds, two grown men who knew everything and nothing about each other. “Well, bloody hell,” he said. “It’s a small world, isn’t it?”

“Small world!”

We drove to a cafe, where I told Nick that I was writing a book about the accident. “Why?” he asked. Not angry or defensive, just intrigued. I told him that I wanted to raise awareness about mental health. “You’re still depressed?” he asked, gobsmacked, mentally comparing that disclosure with Facebook images of me grinning at black-tie balls in Brisbane. “Well, yeah,” I said. “I see a psychologist once a month.”

I paid for lunch and suggested a stroll around Queens Park. My honesty was contagious. Nick filled in the gaps since high school: he’d become hooked on pot and video games, blowing out to 110 kilograms, so anxious and ashamed that he didn’t make it outside for his 21st birthday. The quickest fix for the endless cycle of lethargy and self-loathing had been crystal meth. “Ice stopped me from dreaming about death,” he said.

Nick kept trying to quit meth cold turkey. But the problem with getting in so deep was that he didn’t have any friends left who weren’t addicts or dealers. Relapse was accompanied by the adrenalin rush of belonging.

“It’s scary,” he said. “These people were scared of me.”

I lifted the handbrake outside Nick’s house. He asked for my advice.

“Mate, I’m pretty sure you’ve got depression,” I said.

“Do you think so?”

“If it walks like a duck. And quacks like a duck …”

“But I don’t want to go on those drugs, man.”

I outlined my almost decade-long regime of therapy and antidepressants. “They don’t fix all my problems,” I said. “But they give me the ability to address them.”

I left Toowoomba and didn’t see Nick for another 18 months. He later told me that he’d started antidepressants a few days after our lunch. “Thanks mate,” he messaged me. “Best thing I’ve ever done.”

In May 2019, I was living back in Brisbane. For the 10th anniversary of the accident, I organised dinner with Tim. He owned a home in the suburbs with a pool and had travelled to more than 20 countries on cruise ships. He went to Broncos games on Friday nights and a Pentecostal church on Sundays.

Dinner was at a bar on the Brisbane River. I invited Frida, who’d briefly been my girlfriend after the accident, and Big Red, one of mine and Tim’s oldest mates. I was writing essays about climate change for The Monthly. Big Red was working on a gas mine out west. Frida was a staffer for the Labor Party, taking the career path my father had longed for for me. She was better at it than I would’ve been, more attracted to policy work than ego fulfilment.

“I always thought you’d be the prime minister,” Big Red said to me.

“I wished,” I said.

“His skin was too thin for politics,” said Frida.

My wistfulness was nipped in the bud by Tim’s arrival. Laughter followed him from the entrance to the dinner table, intensifying when he spied Big Red across the room. Tim still couldn’t walk or talk, but he had the same bright blue eyes, wide smile and mouthful of straight teeth. A carer pushed his wheelchair to the table before decamping to get his client a Corona and lime.

“You look so handsome, Tim,” said Frida, kissing him on the cheek. Tim pulled me into a bear hug that I couldn’t break free from, proving once and for all who remained the alpha male. You can never be cured of who you are.

“Ring the bell!” I shouted. “I submit!”

Big Red had given his first child – a ginger-haired behemoth like him – the middle name of Timothy. Now Tim tried to physically overpower the biggest person in the room, as he had me. “I’m sick of your shit, Timmy,” said Big Red, rolling his sleeves up.

Tim signalled for another round while listening intently. He frowned when the subject matter grew more serious, and cracked up at the punchlines. Tim had six nieces and nephews. I had 12 of them. We were both the funny uncle: he was funny ha-ha, and I was a bit funny sometimes. Would I have been so forgiving if it were me in the wheelchair and him living freely?

But Tim didn’t want pity. All he needed was for me to spin him a yarn. “Remember all the rumours that you two clowns started about me?” said Big Red. “I still get asked by people if they were true.” And so the yarning started.
Sitting at the dinner table with three of my oldest friends, I was winded by the blissful follies of youth, happy to ignore the holy disappointments of adulthood. “This has been the best night in forever,” said Frida. Tim yawned through the laughter. His carer called it a night. We did a farewell round of handshakes and hugs.

The great genius and insanity of human beings is our ability to laugh in the wake of disaster. To fall in love after heartbreak. To keep breathing when the people we need could disappear at any given moment.

We were on a hiding to nothingness, and yet I never stopped searching for the right person or the perfect words. The great genius and insanity of human beings is our ability to laugh in the wake of disaster. To fall in love after heartbreak. To keep breathing when the people we need could disappear at any given moment. To make art from the unspeakable grief when they did.

“The survivor who couldn’t cry”: Lech Blaine today.

“The survivor who couldn’t cry”: Lech Blaine today.Credit:James Brickwood

At the start of 2020, Nick, Dom and I met for lunch in Toowoomba, just around the corner from Downlands. It was the first time the three of us had been together since we were 17. After a relapse in 2019, Nick was fresh out of rehab and had been clean for 86 days.

“It’s a mantra: om mani padme hum,” he said, explaining the seven chakras of Hinduism and the new tattoo of a kundalini serpent twisting along his tanned forearm. He was 20 kilograms lighter than when we’d met at Queens Park. “Rehab’s just a bunch of blokes talking about their demons,” he said.

Dom was a born-again communist with a blond pony-tail and twin nose piercings. He showed Nick the tattoo on his skinny wrist of a Dreamtime rain spirit, passed onto him by an Aboriginal mate named Sam. He wore a hammer-and-sickle T-shirt given to him by a Vietnamese violinist at an ashram in southern India, where for two years he’d consumed magic mushrooms and learnt the language of self-compassion. “I stopped ignoring what happened,” he said. “And I accepted it.”

Nick turned to me. “You need to carve out some inner peace,” he said.

“That’s why I went to India and Iran,” added Dom. “Australians are so uncomfortable talking about pain. Other cultures confront it. We just go to the pub and get smashed together. How is that the definition of toughness?”

“Australians are so uncomfortable talking about pain. Other cultures confront it. We just go to the pub and get smashed together. How is that the definition of toughness?”

Nick shadowboxed to prove he’d got the knack back, then confessed to a recurring nightmare he had, about getting bathed in hospital by strangers. “I feel like I woke up from the coma yesterday. Nurses wiping my arse for me. It was so embarrassing. But I couldn’t tell anyone that.”

Now a vegan, Dom cooked tofu and pineapple on the barbecue before flipping them onto focaccias with avocado, spinach and kimchi. At the tipping point of the Great Dividing Range, we sat chewing the fat about depression and post-traumatic stress disorder without breaking eye contact. “I finally forgave myself,” said Dom.

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Nick offered us cigarettes. I’d stopped smoking when I became a runner, but lit one up for old time’s sake. My lungs didn’t digest the relapse with dignity.

I coughed harder than the first night Nick and I did shots of Dad’s Johnnie Walker and fleeced some Longbeach Menthols from my snoring mum’s bedside drawer, 13-year-olds determined to become grown men overnight.

“I’ve missed you guys,” he said.

Nick took a call from the mother of his children, a subtle reminder that he had much more on his plate than either of us. He hugged Dom and me.

“Does writing about it help?” asked Nick.

“Not exactly,” I said. “I’ll be psyched to finish the book, though.”

“Why?” asked Dom. “So you can wake people up?”

“No,” I said. “So I can go back to sleep.”

“I don’t think it’s going anywhere, bro,” said Nick.

There is no closure. Trauma doesn’t allow for a heartwarming moment of redemption, when the main characters come of age and find a cure for the pangs of anguish. We keep persisting anyway, epic vessels of emotion, less of a danger to ourselves and more of an open secret to those around us.

This is an edited extract from Lech Blaine’s Car Crash: A Memoir (Black Inc, $33), out now. For upcoming talks about the book, see lechblaine.com/events.

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