Two weeks ago today, I witnessed something that nobody should ever have to experience. In the early hours of a Saturday morning I saw, at close range, a car deliberately plough into a group of people. The impact upon my psyche has been intense. Not as visceral as the impact of the vehicle on the congregated individuals, but violent, nonetheless. I’ve been plagued by flashbacks, nightmares, and am now receiving treatment to help ease my newfound fear of cars, especially silver ones, travelling at speed through urban streets. The HyperUnreality of the event; the initial contact of car with flesh; the complete disbelief in what I had seen, “Did that really just happen?” “These things only happen in movies”; the sounds – screaming, crying, shouting, have affected me deeply
An act of violence, possibly initiated through earlier, ever-escalating, acts of aggression I bore witness to, which, in turn, triggered further hostilities after the collision. What did the driver hope to achieve? Fame? Infamy? Some kind of twisted immortality? That night it felt like I literally saw Ballard’s Vaughan manifest before my very eyes. The psychopath hellbent on achieving their ends, no matter what the cost to anyone else
There was no glamour, nor arousal in the intermingling of flesh, chrome, blood and oil. Only fear, confusion, and profound pain; for the injured, for their loved ones, and for those who had to bear witness, none of whom had a choice in the matter. Personal and collective agency violated. People forced to star in a ‘show’ of the protagonist’s making. A pathetic excuse for imagination. A lead character who scurried away into the night, unwilling to ‘revel’ in the carnage that they had created.
I’ve never seen Vaughan as someone to behold as anything more than a violent brute. He’s a psychopath, pure and simple, and yet I have, over the course of my life, encountered some who see him as some kind of antihero. I’ve read JG Ballard’s stories for many years, but after my recent experience, I think that it’s going to be some time before I reread Crash, if I’m ever capable of doing so again. I’m no fool, I’ve always known that Vaughans exist within this world. But having seen one arise before my very eyes, less than 50 feet away from me, and then have to physically deal with the destruction that they left in their wake… Well, I don’t know if I’ll ever be quite ready to reengage with him again.