The noise comes from behind me as I walk home, exhausted after a day at school battling sickness, both in the kids and in myself. There’s someone following too close. My hackles rise and I move my bag to my other shoulder, tucking it and myself closer in to the buildings. I put my head down and up my pace. This is one of the better areas of Catania, but that’s not to say it’s safe. Skin crawling, I cross the nightmare junction where the only thing dictating right of way is how much nerve each driver has and try to work out if I’m still being followed. The sound of footsteps has gone. I let out the breath I don’t realise I’ve been holding for the past 30 seconds or so.
That’s when it happens.
The sound of a car crash is both more and less dramatic than you expect. The searing shriek of rubber on tarmac as both parties realise what is going to happen is closely followed by a subdued *crump* as fibreglass and metal fold in on themselves. The expected sound of shattering glass is unnoticeable. Maybe there’s a shout just before or just after impact – it’s difficult to tell. I turn and see a car. A crumpled motorbike. A black-clad rider on his back on the ground, hands to his head. Incongruously, I note that he looks like a stranded beetle. Then I see that the car belongs to a carabiniero. I don’t know whose fault it was, but the poor bastard on the motorbike is going to be up against it either way.
There’s a moment of stillness.
Now people are poking their heads out of bars, sneaking out onto the pavement, craning their necks to see. Even a dog out for a walk with his owner is looking back up the road, head up and alert. Every face is turned back towards the scene of the accident. Urgent mutters pass from person to person. What happened? Did you see anything? No, no, I just heard it … The carabiniero opens his battered door, radio in hand. The motorcyclist is still prone on the road.
I can’t watch any more and I can’t help. I turn and walk away.
Image by I K O on Flickr