Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Why death I think is no parenthesis

I walked past a dead girl today.

I don't actually know if she was dead. But she lay unmoving with eyes closed as paramedics held a yellow plastic sheet above her to protect her from the rain. They lifted an orange board from the ambulance, but other than that showed no particular sense of urgency. No one checked vitals or performed CPR. The leather bag still looped on her shoulder showed that she, like me, had been on her way to work. She was only one block from the metro.

The street was closed to cars, but pedestrians were still free to move between points A and B on the sidewalks to either side. As I neared, I strained my neck hard in the opposite direction at first in a conspicuous display of nonchalance and attempted privacy-giving. I held out as long as I could but finally, like anyone, I had to look. I was almost relieved. There was a heap on the ground, that was all; a pile of clothing. Someone had lost their laundry in the street. But then it was a person. Then it was a female person, a woman, with brown curly hair and a leather bag. I continued walking and passed a woman with two small skipping children traveling the opposite direction on the sidewalk, on their way to school, somewhere between points A and B. I wanted to say, you might not want to go that way, it is not for children to see. But then again there was no blood, no gore; just a woman lying strangely crumpled in the street. My tongue failed me in the end and I said nothing, and who was I to decide, anyway, what other people's children may or may not see?

I don't know what happened to that woman minutes before I got there. If she collapsed or was hit, if she lived or died. It's not the first time I've been a reluctant witness to human tragedy from the relative non-safety of a city sidewalk. As always it leaves me shaken, questioning, and I wonder if I am more afraid of life than of death. Between points A and B there is so much little much little much little time to fill.  

And then it's one step off of the sidewalk and then...           

8 comments:

  1. Once in a while I am jolted out of everyday routine and realize that there is not much to be afraid of in life, not as much as we think, certainly. Like you said, I think we should all be a little more afraid that we aren't living fully enough. Thanks for the reminder, in your wonderful writing as usual!

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  2. I've been making an effort in being mindful and present. We must stay in the here and now bc sadly there may not be a now tomorrow. It's a reminder to live without regrets. I'm thankful it wasn't you.

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  3. Wow! That's chilling. I'm sure that image and thought will stay with you for a very long time. Your telling of it will certainly stay with me for a very long time.

    Everybody has a story and sometimes you want to know more of it, and sometimes you want to know less of it. In the case of this woman, I don't know which I'd want.

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  4. Funny, i saw a dead guy at a bus stop in DC one day coming home from a soccer game, got off the Metro and there he was all dead in the street, i was pretty drunk (for it being that early, the game started at 10am) but i continued on my was and found more beer and some good Mexican food, death's gonna come whether you like it or not, if you're real lucky you won't have much time to think about it.

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  5. I enjoyed this. Things like that make you think.

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  6. OH GOSH. WHAT a chilling experience.

    Something like this happened to me in grad school--my friend and I were heading back from grabbing a coffee and we literally watched in horror as a car cut us off, FLYING, and smashed into the side of the building. The man did live, thankfully; but all I kept thinking about was how I'd been COMPLAINING about how late I'd been all day. And if I'd been one SPLIT second sooner, he would have smashed into us instead of the building...

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  7. Harrowing story. Beautifully told.

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  8. You are such a fantastic writer.

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