Tuesday, January 23, 2007

I didn’t see the accident itself. What I saw was an elderly woman lying prone with her feet still in the train carriage. Her teeth were bared in a grimace of distress and her lips articulated soundless words. She looked around her, attempting to see the faces above the gathering feet and legs. Before my view was obscured by the concerned, I saw the tiniest red spot on her cheekbone that dripped by heartbeats. I thought about the soft feel and the skin’s tissue paper thinness of my grannie’s cheek when pressed to mine to kiss me a greeting.
Her husband had continued to totter toward the station exit. “Excuse me, sir. Your wife.” I said. He looked at me without recognition. I pointed back toward where she still lay. She had touched the spot on her cheek. The blood rouged her, thick and exaggerated like a little girl who has played with mother’s makeup. The old man followed my finger and there was still a hesitation in his understanding. I left after that hesitation when that understanding brought with it a change in the man I could not bear. The fear and anxiety, the guilt, his helplessness scared me. As he turned back, I went toward the exit. Should I have stayed? What could I have done? The station staff was there and someone said an ambulance was on the way. I could have done nothing but I fled from cowardice, routed by the inevitability of old age, fragility and death from infirmity.

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