What does guilt drive us to do? When a doctor and his wife run over a boy on a bike, they become entangled in his father’s life. Greg Sendi’s “Seraglios of Night,” our newest edition to New Voices, explores the avenues of guilt and grief and all the unexpected ways they intersect.
We are always conveniently absent when it comes. We have to be. We would vaporize else. It is axiomatic that you cannot be present and it is best by far that you not even be nearby when desolation alights on the lids of the remains, the remaining, the remainder.
The boy appeared out of the odd blue glare of an early summer evening on a Huffy, I think it was, and I hit him doing over sixty with the Infiniti.
Laura stiffarmed the dashboard and pumped her right foot on the phantom brake of the passenger side. We both saw the child’s face turn our way in a flicker and then saw the distortion of the headwound against the windshield and the eruption of a starburst of gore with a complex but entirely mathematical symmetry whose spatter could no doubt have been calculated from the velocities and vectors and masses of the two objects and the wind.
My instinct had been to steer left, but that was the wrong call. It sent us directly into the boy when it might have been different if I had just kept on ahead or gone right. A misjudgment of basic Newtonian physics, or not a misjudgment, but the failure to engage judgment at all, taking your lead from the thing itself, competing for its destination, its spot on the floor. Idiot.
He disappeared over the top, leaving a clotty little stain on the moonroof and then reappeared out the back window, receding geometrically in ways keyed to the deceleration of the car, the indifferent pulse of the ABS and nauseating metallic grinding of the bicycle under the front wheels.
Laura was out of the passenger door before the car had rolled to a stop and she receded in the rear window in a different way, running not girl-like in that breast protecting way, but full-out, flagging traffic with windmill arms as she approached the boy, urging cars at a minimum to avoid the child’s form, midlane, and perhaps, I guess, to stop for reasons she could not possibly have processed if she had had time to think about it, since anyone stopping would have been help of such a rudimentary kind as to be no help at all.
She grabbed for her phone in her purse, detritus falling randomly while she fished for it and blowing away in the eddies created by traffic. She dropped it and bent to pick it up and squatted on her haunches near the boy and dialed. It was all silent movie gesticulation and panic to me, triple-framed in the mirror and then the rear window and then in the perfect curve of her hips and lower back as I observed and then emerged myself into the punctuated white noise of a highway in summer.