Sasha stands waiting for the bus that will return her to her small flat, holding two bags of shopping in each hand. She always holds the bags instead of putting them on the floor, however long she has to wait. SupaValu bags are so thin they rip on the tiniest of stones, so tiny you might miss them even if you looked. Sasha thinks she should buy some 10 pence, thick plastic bags-for-life and bring them with her, rolled up in her jacket pocket. She knows nothing lasts for life, not bags, not dogs, not husbands, so she feels safer with disposable bags that might let her down.
From the bus stop the whole car park and storefront is visible. Sasha prefers to come here before it gets too busy because crowds of people make her feel uncomfortable and naked. She feels like they are all watching her, boring through her blue and red jacket into her memories and she doesn’t trust their accuracy.
She is the only person at the bus stop so she has probably just missed the previous bus and will be in for a long wait. At least alone there is no chance of a stranger engaging her in polite conversation. Sasha prefers the days when she speaks to no-one.
Sasha ignores the cars that come into and go out of the car park, deliberately refusing to allow her gaze to fall on even one single vehicle. The drivers think they have control but they forget there are so many other drivers on the roads. They think they are safe but what happens when the other car is driven by someone not in control, not safe as they think? And what about the passenger, strapped in beside them, belt buckle seized up and holding them tight against the velour seat fabric?
Sasha was looking at the scratches on the toe of her left boot when she heard the crash. Even then she had to force her head upwards to look in the direction of the bang. Two vehicles, both cars she thought, were end to end in front of the store. Her body refused to move and screamed out for her to run, both at once. Nobody emerged from either vehicle for such a long time. Sasha didn’t realize she wasn’t breathing until one driver climbed out of his car and she heard her own breath exhale with a vague hissing sound. Her brain told her nobody would be seriously hurt in a car park shunt, yet her inner voice yelled that the passenger must be dead too, or he would have already got out. Just because there are no flames doesn’t mean he will survive. James died long before the flames began, didn’t he.
Maybe Sasha should walk home, just drop the shopping on the pavement one bag at a time, whenever it feels too heavy to carry further. She can’t face even a bus ride now and her therapist has been so happy she has managed to use any type of transport again, not even eighteen months after the accident. She knows now she will never get into a vehicle again, not a train or a bus and absolutely never a car. The responsibility on a single human, naturally fallible to some extent, is too great.
She will never make another person responsible for her life. She is not afraid they will let her down and she will die. That would be a blessed release and she does not deserve that. No, she will never risk making another human feel like she does every single day, every waking hour, every slumbered minute judging by her dreams and nightmares.
Sasha cannot even start to walk towards home yet, not until she starts to breathe again, and this time she doesn’t know if anything will ever let her hissing breath escape again.