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