Years sterilise.  Recall numbs.  Mine recedes even now: the ghost of gravel dust in my nostrils dulls, how I crouched low, clung to metal, and fell prey to the frank absurdities of prayer.  We are our close-calls; man is the sum of his desires.  That night safe-haven pulsed as each prior self, brave, exited — ragged, each hyperventilation of dead courage.  Soft-handed comfort was too little, despised.  Better, I recall thinking, to be struck, manhandled — made to show I'd survived.