Yesterday, I saw a woman fall and everything changed.
I decided to go for a drive with my dog, Bella. Roll the windows down so she could take in the scents of another neighbourhood. I just wanted to drive. No music, no inspirational podcasts, just silence and the cool air, the bright sun and us, just driving.
I set off east on Queen street. No decided direction. What rare moment in a day is this? To do something without aim or task to check off the list. To meander in a kind of illusion of freedom. Reminds me of being a kid when the days seemed so long and we could hang out in trees or wander through the woods aimlessly, spontaneously, joy-fully. Inventing each moment as it arrived. I miss that kind of presence that seemed to flow in us so effortlessly. Now, we have to make time for it. Set a schedule so you can “fit in” the meditation, the journaling, the exercise…reading.
Maybe I set out in the car looking for that sort of presence within myself but also, around me. To trust in the accuracy of each moment drawing my attention; each red light, each stop sign, a cardinal that flew by, a little girl walking her dog, all those CLOSED signs in the window, my own breath.
And then I saw her fall as she tried to run to catch her bus.
Full frontal whole body fall down.
I gasped. Hit the brakes.
I rolled my window, calling to her.
“Are you okay?”
She pushed herself up onto her knees. She seemed a bit stunned.
I called again, “Are you okay?”
She looked (sort of) in my direction. Nodded.
I guessed she was in her 70s.
She stayed there, kneeling in the middle of the street.
A forced genuflection. To whom? To what?
The car behind me pulled out and drove around me. Same with the next car.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” I called again.
She shook her head “no” looking at her hand, still kneeling on the cement.
She started to crawl. On her knees.
Holding her wrist, crawling to try and get off the street.
“Okay hold on, hold on, don’t move,” I called out as I quickly scanned the traffic around me and oncoming, pulled off Queen street and pulled onto a side street.
I scanned my car for what? Gloves? There were none. A mask? Nothing.
What the fuck has happened to me that I would even THINK to look for these things?
The palpability of everything about the world (these days) had penetrated and I loathed that these thoughts were in me at all.
“Fuck this,” I remember thinking as I pulled the parking brake into place, turned off the car and hit the hazards.
She was still there. On her knees. Looking at her hand. Still stunned.
As I approached her, I said, “You’re okay. I’m going to help you. We won’t take each other’s hands but I will take your arm and help you stand, okay?”
She looked up at me, “Oh, right…that…Okay. My hand….” She lifted it toward me to show me the gravel coated cut and bit of blood.
“Yes, that.” I thought to myself. That.
We looked each other in the eyes and oh, my heart. My heart. Her eyes were aged. Red ringed and so utterly tired. I must have looked the same to her for I felt in my body what I saw in her.
“You’re okay, I got you,” I said and as put my left arm under her right arm, bracing my legs to support my back (as they teach—and we somehow never forget—in those How To Lift Properly lessons), I wrapped my left hand around her forearm and cupped my right hand onto her elbow and….it seemed like time stopped moving.
My small hand
a gentle firm grasp around the thin bone of her right arm through her navy winter coat.
My mind notes what seems fragile.
And so thin.
My bicep muscle pressed into the bone of her upper arm. Careful, Jenn.
Bone and muscle.
Fabric and grey gravel cement.
Hands not touching.
Arms linked. Bracing. Cupping. Holding.
Knees bruised and pebble pressed, no doubt a bit of blood under her black pants.
A glimpse down at her catfish-grey-coloured rainboots.
I blame the boots. Who can run in those?
Faces close, sharing breath.
I got you. You’re okay. Here we go and…
Up she goes. We stand.
She’s still stunned. Still looking at her hands.
A leather glove drops. I didn’t know she had gloves. How did I miss that detail?
I pick up the glove…I pick up the glove.
I hand it to her as I see the bus driver crossing the street towards us.
“I don’t know what happened,” she said. Still stunned.
“We’re all a bit dazed these days, it’s okay. Were you trying to get this bus?”
She nods. She’s wants to cry but she won’t let it happen. Oh, I know this place, lady.
As the bus driver approaches, I say, “She’s trying to get to your bus.” He nods, he takes her arm.
He takes her arm.
And off they go.
“Thank you,” she says to me.
I can’t even remember what I said then. If I said anything.
I know I smiled at them. I think I did.
As I stood there, watching her go, watching her walk, I choked my own tears back as I realized this was the first human touch I’d experienced in…I don’t know how long.
I hoped that was not the case for her.