By Parson Thru
Visiting times were fairly relaxed on the ward. Some relatives operated a shift system, coming and going. John didn’t envy the patients who had to endure that.
He was mulling this over when he saw his mother appear from behind the vestibule wall with a man in his early forties.
On seeing John was awake, his mother smiled briefly, then fixed him a look of admonishment.
“About bloody time you woke up!”
She turned to the man at her side.
“He’s always asleep!”
The man smiled awkwardly. John tried to work out who he was. The few surviving family members hadn’t shown their faces for years.
As they reached the bed, his mother instructed the man – Jason, apparently – to bring another chair before someone else took it. Always naturally competitive. John reflected how that trait had been omitted from his own character.
“So.” she enquired, sitting down, “How are you feeling? You’ve had enough sleep to keep you going for the rest of your life.”
The goading passed John by. He smiled at her.
“You can never have too much sleep.”
“Your dad would have had you up out of there by now. I don’t know what he must be thinking.”
John watched them settle themselves.
“I'm sorry. Should I know you? My memory.”
The man smiled, then seemed suddenly awkward.
“Thanks for bringing my mum." John offered, filling the gap. "I assume you brought her?”
“Yes. Look, John...”
“...I'm the driver. I ran you over. I’m sorry.”
John felt no reaction.
“My name’s Jason. I'm sorry. Now you're awake, I don't know what to say.”
"It was an accident." John's mother tapped his arm.
“I had to come to see how you were. I’ve been bringing your mum almost since you were admitted, but you’ve been really sick. On life-support.”
John looked on with interest.
“I think they told me that. Do you know how long I’ve been here?”
“Three weeks and two days.”
John's mother leaned forward.
“You look better than you did. I didn’t give much for your chances. Then that would have been me all on my own.”
John felt a twinge of compassion, bordering on guilt. He didn’t see a lot of his mother, but at least they had each other.
“Your mum and I met in the police station. We were only sitting next to each other for a few minutes before your mum spoke and told me why she was there.”
John couldn’t stifle the smile.
“I bet that was awkward.”
“No.” his mother answered. “Not at all. At least we had something to talk about.”
“I really am sorry, John.”
“Have you been coming every day?”
“Nearly.” his mother replied. “The nurses told me to rest for a while and they’d call when there was a change.”
“When did they call?”
“Two days ago. They said you’d woken up. I thought they were going to tell me you’d died.”
John blew air through his lips.
“Did you come yesterday, then, and the day before?”
“Yes, but you’re always asleep.”
“We do wait.” Jason explained. “But you sleep most of the day.”
They sat in silence for a while.
“They wouldn’t let me bring flowers. They don’t allow them in here, evidently.”
John smiled. “Evidently” was one of his mother’s pet words. Then he remembered something else.
“It was an autonomous car.”
“Yes.” Jason answered. “That’s what the police are interested in. I had it in autonomous mode. What happened was really odd. No one seems to understand.”
“I remember it was going fast.”
“Yes. It shouldn’t have done that. It’s weird.”
“And you weren’t driving it?”
Jason was massaging his fingers.
“Well, it’s a moot point. I was at the controls, but not actually controlling it.”
John looked at his mother. It was good to see her.
"There are lots of things I can’t remember now, but I can remember the car and the street. The biggest problem is remembering anything since I’ve been in here. What day is it?”
“Friday.” Jason answered.
“It doesn’t mean anything to me really.”
“Every day’s the same to me.” his mother chipped-in, matter of factly.
“He was on his way to visit me, weren’t you, son?”
“Yes, I was.”
They sat quietly.
When Jason looked up, John had fallen asleep.
His mother stood up.
“Well, there’s not much point in staying. He could be asleep for hours.”
Jason moved his seat back to the next bay.
“Shall we go, then?” he asked.
“Yes. Would you mind stopping at the supermarket?”
“Of course not. We can come again tomorrow if you want.”
“I suppose we should. He looked a lot better, don’t you think?”