Radiator Grille

by Mario Kaiser
updated September 21, 2022
This appears on the Podcast

I had recognised the guy from afar. He lived in our house, a few floors below. Not far enough to keep us from hearing the baby cry all day long though. The baby they didn't seem to want anyway. We were theorizing that it must have been one of these babies people are making to mend a broken relationship. We might have been wrong, but the fact that they neither seemed happy, nor seemed to like the kids they already had, we selfrighteously jumped to the conclusion.

Speaking of jumping: I was careful approaching the guy, not only because encounters with him or his wife were uneasy and unpleasant, but also because he didn't seem to be minding where he was going too much. He was in the final moments of a short street conversation with someone he knew, at the stage where you're already moving away from each other but still throwing verbiage and plans each other's way.

Naturally, he was looking towards his friend and didn't seem to be aware of the fact that he was closer to the street than he might have thought; the moment when his acquaintance realized the danger, it was already too late. The far away face was dissolving into a grimace of shock. Even though there was not enough time to speak a single word in time to save the hapless fool, the change in his friend's expression seemed to happen very slowly. I was transfixed by that face.

It didn't feel like a decision when I reactively jumped forward in order to stop our grumpy neighbor from being hit by the cheap SUV that would definitely have hit him; I was too distracted by that melting face to properly make a decision.

Unfortunately for me, while I did manage to stop our neighbor from walking in front of that ridiculously bloated car, I also threw myself off balance in the process. My grumpy, greasy neighbor had turned towards the source of the push that had kept him on the sidewalk. His face looked somewhere between angry and puzzled, probably because he expected a push to be an act of aggression, yet the realization that this particular push was not, had already started dawning on him.

I'm not sure how my own face would have reflected it, but on my end there was no process, no realization, there was a fact, simple, clear as day. I was going to die. Stupidly. I knew because I was on the way to meet the car's radiator grille head first. I already knew about the fact that these SUV kinds of cars resulted in much worse injuries when hitting people, because they didn't just hit your legs, they instead hit the torso and everything vital in it. It was crystal clear what was about to happen if such a car hit your head. I knew. I felt it. This was it. This was the end.

Even though I didn't expect to have my life flashing before my eyes or see a light at the end of a tunnel – although I was staring at a pair of rapdily approaching headlights, which I found funny somehow –, I would have expected my last thoughts to more solemn. I didn't think about my loved ones, I wasn't evaluating wether I had lived a good life. Instead, I was angry and irritated about my death. Imagine looking at the remains of glass bowl full of delicious food that you just blunderingly smashed on the floor. That's how I felt.

I wasn't necessarily angry at myself for saving my grumpy neighbor, I was angry about the terrible execution. Even though the car wasn't breaking for some reason, the driver was probably distracted and definitely not speeding. I was probably going to end up in the next edition of the Darwin awards. Even if the car would have hit my neighbor, it might not even have wounded him fatally. In contrast to me and my frail head, which was going to be sliced into hexagonal pieces by the radiator grille of a stupidly bloated car that someone with a little money bought to feel like he has a lot.

Imagining my head in pieces momentarily dissolved my anger. It yielded to a revolting fear, a nausea emanating from my deepest of insides. I'm pretty sure that I started vomiting, mid-fall, at the apporaching car's raditator grille before it –––