And Then She Just Walked Away

I saw a woman get hit by a truck last week.

I couldn't prove it to you. It still feels like a story someone told me once that sounded like a lie. Who knows. The incident evaporated as quickly as it had happened, it almost does feel like a lie.

I'm still trying to figure out what else I could have done. How I could have made her stay.

Sitting at a red light, I was only distantly aware that a truck was rolling into the intersection from the right, the light having just changed in the driver's favor. I might never have been able to recall the make, model, or license plate number of that truck had the body of a woman not come crashing down in front of it. The truck had jolted to a halt and in that same split second, an older woman bounced off of the ground. She looked up at the truck in terror, her belongings strewn out in a diaspora away from her body. I think I yelled OH MY GOD or something, but before I could answer my son's WHAT HAPPENED, I had my vehicle pulled up on the right of the truck, up on the sidewalk out of any other traffic. I put it in park, jumped out and ran over to help get this woman out of the street.

This is going to sound weird, but my first thought as I walked up to her was that she looked too elegant to be laying on the asphalt, shaking and scared. She looked as though she had spent the morning doing her hair and makeup. I reached under her arms and lifted her up. Her sunglasses and handbag were still on a pile on the ground. I remember they both had elements of gold, as did her outfit. Little flecks of sparkle woven in her rosy beige couture sweats, the bottoms which now bore black asphalt marks at the right hip and arm. Someone handed her her things.

As I pulled her to the sidewalk, the driver that hit her, a young girl in her boyfriend's truck on her way to work, came up and started apologizing profusely. She was black and the woman that was hit was older and white. Maybe it's because I remember hearing inappropriate names spew out of mouths in anger before, but I expected some sort of racial slur to be hurled at this girl. I hate that I was actually bracing myself for it, expecting to hear some nastiness spewing from this woman's mouth. A) She'd just been hit! And B) you just never know. But nothing came. Maybe she'd yell something else? About her being too young and reckless... or blind... anything! I looked at the older woman's face, waiting for the venom, but all I saw was a strange look, her mouth trying to put together some words that sounded vaguely like, "Oh don't worry about it." It seemed like she was embarrassed for getting herself hit by the truck. 

Two guys in bright green shirts were suddenly there. Were they the ones that were helping to get her out of the street? Probably. They had been working on cleaning up the sidewalk with a community outreach group. I hadn't even noticed them until they were right there helping get the lady to the sidewalk. It's like, they weren't there, and then POOF, there were twenty bright green shirted people, two of which were wide-eyed and shocked but ready to help. Thinking back, I wonder why only two guys in the whole group came to help.

Why does anybody do anything, right?

We got her to the sidewalk but she ignored our suggestion to sit down, so I asked her to at least sit in my passenger seat. A woman that had witnessed the accident as she was waiting to turn left was on the phone with emergency services and came over to ask her name, age, etc. She never said her name, but she did say she was 73. I thought how bad it was that a woman her age just took a hit to one hip and landed hard on the other.

She was shaking and her hands were like ice. I squeezed them hoping I could radiate warmth into them. She kept saying she was fine and we kept telling her no she wasn't. Then she asked if I could do her a favor, and I figured she might finally be coming out of what I assumed was shock. I thought she was going to ask me to drive her to the hospital or her doctor or maybe a chiropractor. I figured I would tell the woman calling 911 to tell the EMT's or Sheriff to meet us there.

"Can you drive me to the library? I have a friend that's waiting for me and I'm late."

I think I might have blinked incredulously a couple of times, but then I thought, okay, she's still in shock... say yes... keep her talking... keep her in the car... get her some water... 

She kept saying she was fine and just needed to get to the library. I tried my hardest to talk her into staying. "You need to file a police report for insurance. You feel okay now, but you fell hard. You're going to have some injuries that won't show until tomorrow, maybe later." As my logic starts sinking in, I notice a clump of hairs sticking straight out of place and some lipstick smeared, both in the direction of the fall. It made me wince in pain for her. Then I pointed out a bruise on her hand that was already visible. But how did it happen in this fall? It seemed an odd place for it, the way she landed. My mention of it seemed to make her nervous and she started scooting herself out of the seat.

As I desperately pleaded for her to stay, I heard the sirens. THANK GOD! I was relieved that I wouldn't have to keep stalling to keep her in the car. But she heard the sirens, too, and before any of us actually saw the rig, she had pulled herself out from my car and started walking back in the direction she had come, waving us off with a smile. I wanted to call after her, but she never told us her name. All I could say was COME BACK! PLEASE COME BACK! I couldn't chase after her. My son was in the car and I was still parked on the sidewalk.

The two guys in bright green shirts had been chatting up the young driver, telling her she was lucky and she should just leave. He brought her over to me to convince her. "If the lady doesn't want to file a report, she's okay, right?" I looked at him and said that staying was the right thing to do. He rolled his eyes, shook his head, then told her good luck and he and the other bright green shirted guy went back to their group.

The firetruck that we heard finally pulled up and we explained that she had just left. We all expressed our concern that she might have been in shock. The woman who had been on the phone calling 911 walked in the direction the lady had fled to help them look for her. They all came back a few moments later saying she was just... gone. 

Passersby started asking what had happened. My front fender was crunched from a previous incident. The girl's boyfriend's truck had an old dent in the back bumper. There was no elegant 73 year old woman to explain about, so I just let them all think we we'd had an accident. Besides, who would believe that some little old lady just got hit, shook it off, and then she just walked away? I gave my number to the driver and told her I had to leave because my son had to pee, which he did, but more than that, I knew this woman just didn't want to be found. I didn't understand why she left. I'm still wondering right now. But she had made it crystal clear, and I was beginning to feel like I was invading her privacy.

There's no police report and other than giving my phone number to a witness, I couldn't really help. I don't know the name of the woman that called 911. I don't know the names of the guys that were on the sidewalk in bright green shirts picking up trash. I don't know the name of the 73 year old woman who seemed to be embarrassed for making such a fuss by getting herself hit by an F-150 on her way to meet her friend at the library.

By the time I got home, it was as if none of it had happened. Typing this out right now, I feel like I'm making it all up. I'm trying to find meaning in why we were all there... random strangers brought together for just a moment to help a woman who didn't want to be helped. I'm trying to understand what her life was like that she could get up from being violently knocked down on the asphalt to then just walking away, waving us off with a smile.

I've driven through that intersection a few times since that day. Every time, I wonder how that elegant 73 year old woman is. I pray for an absence of hairline fractures on either hip and hope that she was able to eventually warm her cold shaking hands.