Meeting the love of your life before being born is not a common thing. The day my mother showed up at my in law’s house to give them the news of her pregnancy and that I was on my way, Irene was already crawling around in the dining room being only one-year-old. We met prematurely from different worlds and now we must love each other forever, as we swore, from different worlds as well.
Life gave us both a different destiny as it does with everyone, there, without an instruction manual and no prospect whatsoever. It made sure to put us in a drawer of pendant issues to bring us together farther ahead when the stars aligned in our favour. It tied us closely and made us almost family by sheer caprice, since her cousins are my cousins, but Irene and I aren’t. We weren’t. We grew up playing at my uncles’ house, my parents’ bar, and the streets of Barcelona. Last time we saw each other before breaking apart was at the christening of our cousin in 1997. I was 17 by then and she was 19. Soon after that I moved with my mother to Mallorca, where I stayed until 2010, when I took the decision of emigrating to England in search of a better future. A better future…
Anyhow, fate decided to open the drawer of pending issues so that Irene and I would find each other again 15 years later. We did so through Social Networks. The typical story: friendship request, familiar face, familiar last name… I accepted and in less than 2 months we were in love. This happened in March 2012. She lived in Barcelona and I lived in Reading. Our master plan since the first day of cyber romance was to eventually live together in England. Something we got to do after working for a long time, her taking trips, me staying in Barcelona for periods of time, patience and much love. We finally reached our target in the past July 23, 2014. We’d been living together since then, we were working, she was improving her English and we’d even started making plans to be parents. But happiness is always so fleeting and unpredictable that there it comes and now it’s gone. Irene and I had barely had time to invite it for tea at five, when all our dreams came to ashes right around the corner from our house.
On that Saturday September 27, 2014 we were coming back from a restaurant from downtown Reading, where we’d gone to have dinner. We were walking holding hands and smiling, happy and expectant for the arrival of New Year. Completely ignoring what some criminals behind the wheel had been doing from miles behind. There were barely 75 steps left to enter secure ground when the sound of a brake at our backs silenced us, we turned around to see what was happening and saw a car skid down the sidewalk and hit us. Ours hands came apart forever in that instant.
I woke up some time later on the floor, head against the pavement, unable to move, bleeding a mix of blood and brain fluid through the nose. I was shaking like never before in my whole life. A young Muslim who had witnessed the accident helped me by covering me with his jacket and soothing me. Soon after I heard the sound of the siren: I remember asking only how my girlfriend was: “how’s my girlfriend?” I whispered again and again with barely any strength for anything else. He told me she was ok, not to worry and especially not to move. He said there were people taking care of her and that she seemed conscious. It was a lie, but I couldn’t turn to look. Plus, a few seconds later the paramedics rushed to cut my clothes and immobilize my neck. They moved me to the hospital without the chance to know Irene’s state, who was carried straight to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. But that’s where our story ended, for even though that is the best place in England for brain injuries they couldn’t do anything to save her.
A month passed, thirty days; four weeks at the Royal Berkshire Hospital. My days went by slowly and agonizingly, as if I’d been moving down the square of a jinxed game board, impregnated with a killing routine, surrounded by others’ dramas that amounted to my own. In that month I survived in a world parallel to the reality of a threatening exterior, one to which I knew I’d be tossed into rather sooner than later when they decided to discharge me. It all started from zero to me when I came back home on January 30 and I reencountered her clothes, her things, her hairs on the pillow.
My physical sequels are not perceivable at plain sight. Since I came out of the hospital I’ve been hospitalized another three times due to inconvenient infections that I can’t overlook because of to my skull fractures. Fractures which will never seal and will leave my brain vulnerable, since any bacteria or virus could infiltrate through them and cause meningitis, any other brain complication or even death, according to the diagnosis from the surgeons of Oxford and the maxillofacial doctors of said hospital. My two fractured ankles along with my right tibia still stop me from walking without feeling pain. I can barely walk for an hour without needing a cane and without having my left ankle swollen to twice the size of the right one, remembering with every step the words from my orthopaedist: “your leg will never be the same again”.
The emotional sequels are not visible at plain sight either, since I’m not limping because my legs broke in 1000 pieces after the accident, but because I will never walk next to Irene again. My head is chapped in three, it’s true… But the most painful thing is having my heart split in two.
Goodbye to all our plans for a better future. Goodbye to the idea of ever getting married and having children with her. Goodbye to that great person that’s left everyone an orphan. Even you reading these words and all the people hearing them out loud.
Both her family and I have been sentenced for life to live without her, not having committed any crime. A lifetime imprisonment for us that will only be worse if an absurd sentence is given to the guilty party. Therefore, the sentence given -from my point of view as a victim-, must be an example to avoid other people acting the same way tomorrow, the day after, or who knows maybe if tonight at the same street in the same spot. My claim for justice doesn’t come from resentment or anger. My love is greater than my hatred. Even my compassion for those sitting on the dock is bigger than my thirst for revenge. But today’s sentence mustn’t sound like a spank in the bottom “you’re grounded and go to your room without supper”. It must be blunt. Two young men must leave this courtroom today on their way to prison, along with a clear message to all of those in freedom; to our children; to society in general: “Driving is not a kids’ game. Application of law and justice in England isn’t either”.
It will take forever for me to face the loss of Irene. Nobody can get an idea of the degree of complicity bringing us closer, nor how much and for how long we loved each other. Irene was a little everything: she was my friend, my girlfriend, my lover, my teacher, my daughter, my mother… looking around and not seeing her smiling, exuding life generously no matter what happened, is the bitterest thing that’s left for me to digest.
Her body is no longer with me; the accused took it from me. But her soul will live in me forever. In me forever.