“You can only connect the dots in your life by looking back - not forward…Connect the dots and find what you love.”
Tuesday, August 2
When I regain consciousness, I instinctively, but ineffectually, gasp for much needed air. I can sense a thick, effective sticky tape pulling on the stubble surrounding my mouth. I crave to stretch my jaw, just for a moment. I try to throw a rejuvenating yawn, but it’s just not happening. Apparently, when you yawn, your brain cools off and your motor functions restart. I’d like them to restart now. I desperately want to quench my thirst; water would be fine. When I gulp air to swallow, a grating pain sears down my throat, like waking from a comatose state after a wedding party. I muse to myself, ‘Charlie, what the fuck happened?’
Prising open my eyelids is somewhat successful, which is a small solace, one mildly tarnished by the palpable lack of view. So this is what it feels like to be sightless. Years ago, a friend of mine was diagnosed with the degenerative eye disease. She told me that it wasn’t all darkness, being blind. She said that she sometimes experienced glaring shades of red and yellow, breaking up the monotony of eternal darkness. And that is pretty much what it feels like right now. But I am fairly sure my eyes have not been gouged out with teaspoons. It strikes me as far more probable that I am blindfolded with a rough fabric, perhaps a scarf, which is annoyingly restricting my view.
Evidently, I am in transit, the groan of an overworked diesel engine filling my ears. Whoever is driving is doing so with reckless abandon, swaying between lanes, eliciting the occasional horn of frustration. Judging by the fairly constant speed, we appear to be on a motorway, or at very least a dual carriageway. The ribbed rumble strip, designed to keep drivers - and I can now confirm hostages - from dozing off, is working well.
As I continue my bodily self-assessment, I realize that my right arm is numb to the core. The blood in my left arm has ample circulation, although I wish it had less. My left biceps muscle is in intermittent spasm, no doubt from being trapped behind my back and I now realise that something strong and ropey is keeping my left wrist unwillingly coupled to its right-hand partner. I manage to dislodge the blindfold by scratching the back of my head against a protruding notch on the side of the vehicle, whilst simultaneously making an incongruous surprised expression with my forehead to shift the textile material upward. It does not shift very far, something on my head is impeding it, but at last I have some visionary sense restored. Hallelujah.
From what I can tell, I am in the back of a car-derived van. Or it could be a van-derived car, depending on your position. From mine, curled up in a foetal pose, it doesn’t really matter. Lying on my side, I notice that I am wearing Lycra cycling shorts, which my housemate has counselled me is no way for a discerning man to dress (my defence of ‘freewill - the case for going commando’ received no sympathy). The thigh-length shorts are black and silky, the type that provide a sewn-in padded seat which explains why I still use them when taking my road bike. Since I am not inclined to don these shorties for any other sorties, I conclude that my last conscious actions involved my bicycle, which now comes into focus on the other side of the cargo space.
Straining my thought process further, it reminds me of trying to remember what I was dreaming about, after waking in the night. I have this image of an old lady looking pitifully at me, a mother with a pushchair deftly parking it so that the young occupant cannot witness the scene. Then a voice, “It’s okay, it’s okay.” There is a strong French accent to it, and the status update is directed at the onlookers, not at me. “I will take him to l’höpital”. Definitely French. Am I on my way to hospital? Is that why we are travelling at speed? Am I dying? No, good Samaritans don’t gag and blindfold people. This driver is not my friend.
My mind has become rapidly cogent, whatever induced my sleep appears to be wearing off sharply. To understand what I am doing here, I should explain the remarkable events of the past six months that no doubt will shed some light onto my current predicament. Then, perhaps, I can find a way to get away from this swerving lunatic.
I can feel something preventing my sore head from resting comfortably on the floor of the cargo hold. I realise that my prized, wind-tunnel-designed helmet is still strapped reassuringly to my head. It is one of those state-of-the-art models, with a live streaming helmet-cam incorporated into the polystyrene moulding. Suddenly, I grasp that someone other than my captor could be aware that I am here….