I play a game. I call it “What would Liam Neeson do?”
The rules are simple. Whenever I feel like I’m in a potentially harmful or dangerous situation, I would come up with contingency plans to avoid being captured, assaulted, killed. You can say it’s pretty extreme. I mean how common would something like that happen, right?
But I play the game anyway. What would Liam Neeson do if this motorcycle gets thrown off the flyover. What would Liam Neeson do if someone shot the driver of this tricycle I’m riding on. What would Liam Neeson do if a mega earthquake hits while I’m standing by the road waiting for a jeepney. Even more farfetched – what would Liam Neeson do if a deadly virus outbreak happens. And my thoughts go wild exploring options, possibilities, weapons I can craft out of objects I normally carry, 1-2-3 quick-as-lightning moves to evade injury. Intense, but it keeps me occupied.
I would have thought that having thought of every single option for every single disaster would keep me on my toes in case something does happen.
But nothing in the realm of make-believe could have prepared me for what reality had in store for me.
It was a Wednesday. I remember it was an unusually hot day. The sun was glaring, its rays painful to the skin. It was the reason why instead of riding behind the driver of the tricycle, I decided to get into the sidecar. I remember feeling odd when I had grabbed the handle to get into it, but I took no mind.
Just a few meters into the ride, I noticed a red SUV backing up from a tiny alley right ahead of us. We were still at a safe distance when this happened, so I naturally assumed our driver would apply the brakes. I mean, it was right in front of us. Surely, one would stop to give way to the SUV.
But no, the tricycle went on and on, seemingly going even faster instead of slower, the SUV appearing closer. And I just stared. Dumbstruck. My thoughts changed from “Is this really going to happen?” to “No doubt we’re going to crash.” My mind processed all this but I just stared, waited even, allowed it to happen just as it would have happened. Why didn’t I move? Brace myself for impact? Yell? Up to now, I still don’t know why. It was like me knowing, me watching myself from a distance, me waiting to see what would happen.
And the pain when it did happen was unbearable. It hurts just to remember.
I remember seeing blood on my handkerchief which I had used to cover my injured eye. I was nervous, terrified, alone, shaking in fear. Thoughts were racing in my head – what if I go blind? How am I going to see? How am I going to be a lawyer without being able to read?
I remember asking the intern in an almost joking manner, “Am I going to go blind?” And I heard nothing but my nervous laughter. Those seconds before she had spoke seemed like eternity to me. What was taking her so long to respond?
I remember having had to stare at the ceiling with my other eye while I was being wheeled in a stretcher around the hospital. It was weird – I realized how differently everything looked from that viewpoint. I could hear noises, the nurses engaging in small talk, the shuffling of feet around me. But I couldn’t see the source of those sounds. All I saw was the ceiling, sometimes plain, sometimes patterned, with only the occasional light bulbs to break the continuity.
I remember how I had lain before the doctor, allowing him to stitch my lacerations. I could feel the needle so close to my eye, could sense the gentle tugging. In that moment, in that helpless vulnerable moment, I had to learn to trust with full abandon.
I remember the discomfort of blinking, the feeling like I had tiny shards of glass still lodged in my cornea.
I remember how weeks after I was discharged, I went back to the hospital and thought of how foreign everything looked. But then I only had to look up to know that yes, I’ve been here, this is the way, and I was strangely comforted by the intimacy I had with the hospital’s ceilings.
I remember all these things. When my scar would feel heavy, when I would somehow tug at the area in a wrong way, when it would tingle ever so slightly without me knowing why, I would remember.
What I don’t understand is how at the most crucial moment before all this happened, I couldn’t remember. I couldn’t remember to play the game.