It was a perfect, temperate world last weekend. We spent lots of time on playgrounds and in parks, visiting with friends and family and finding places where we could let the dog run loose. On Monday, we had a picnic on a Granville hillside and met the early signs of fall during a quick walk through the woods. Declan stopped to examine details along the way: a pine cone, a fallen spray of Queen Anne’s lace (“I have a flower for you, mom.”), and a sprig with two deep red leaves on it that he spun between his fingers, asking “is it like a butterfly?
On the way home, the sunset stung his eyes and he kept sneezing. I tried to convince him to wear sunglasses or hold up a book to block the sun, but he was determinedly unhappy, desperately wanting out of his car seat now, now, NOW. I was relieved when we got to the Broad Street exit and began making our way up the long incline to the Hilltop.
Then I saw this body on the side of the road, this man with his face planted into the ground, his legs twisted around a bicycle, blood on the sidewalk near his head. I started grabbing for my cell phone and trying to form a sentence to tell Dan to slow the car down, that there was a person hurt or dying or dead and alone back there. We pulled up to the next intersection so I could look for a street number to tell the 911 operator where the man was. In spite of being the granddaughter of a surgeon, I really had no idea how to help this man other than to call someone who could. The three rings before an answer seemed like a lot.
“I don’t know if he’s dead or alive, he’s just collapsed on the sidewalk and I think his head is bleeding,” I told him. Head injuries. Don’t they come faster for head injuries?
By the time we waited through a light to turn back down Broad Street, two more cars had stopped and a group of five or six people now milled around the man, a couple of them with cell phones pressed to their ears, also calling 911. A helicopter circled. We still had a crying toddler in the back seat. Not to mention an anxious dog strapped into the seat next to him who was now beginning to sense some new level of stress in the air, and who would, therefore, probably start trying to dig his way toward the trunk momentarily. I gave the dispatcher my phone number and told him that we were heading home. Dan told the group that we had reached emergency services and someone was coming. As we reached the top of the hill, an ambulance passed us on its way down.
This is the second time inside of a month that I have seen a person prone along West Broad Street, and went home wondering for several days whether I was possibly looking at someone just moments before, or moments after, their death. The newspaper didn’t shed light on either situation. I don’t think it’s important that I know.
My hope is that in both cases, they are recovering somewhere, basking in the gift of having survived, ready to soak in a perfect, temperate world and twirl the brightly colored, fallen sprigs of a Midwestern autumn in between their fingers.
Life soundtrack: Lou Reed, Magic and Loss, “Magic and Loss”