Eyes itchy with fatigue, Mary slowed the car at the red light, but never quite pushed the brakes all the way on. The noise and jolt of the slow impact woke her up. She tried to get out, but the car leapt forward. It was still on and in gear. In the mental haze, she couldn’t remember what to do, so sat still. The driver of the other car walked up to her door, but she couldn’t work out how to open the window. He opened the door.
‘What the hell? You’ve hit me!’
Mary looked up at him. ‘I don’t know what to do.’
‘Somehow, this was a kind man. Perhaps he saw the total confusion in her face. Or perhaps he played some violent sport that release his anger and allowed him to be calm in a situation like this.
‘My name is John. Turn the key to turn off the engine.’
Mary did this.
‘Pull on the handbrake. Undo your seatbelt.’
A driver, annoyed that the accident had happened in the right turn lane causing him to miss the green arrow, yelled abuse as he drove past. Mary flinched. John helped her out of the car, talking gently.
‘Ignore him. Come and sit on the grass.’
They sat on the wide median strip. He spoke again.
‘They let him off.’
‘Sixteen years I put up with it, and they let him off.’ Mary started to cry and John realised this was much more than a minor traffic accident.