by Sam Pink
Two cars raced past me when I was walking home tonight.
One tried to pass the other but couldn’t, compensating back and forth too much before swerving towards some cars stopped at an intersection.
There was screeching, then a loud smashing sound.
When everything had settled, four or five people got out of one car and ran.
I went up to the accident with another guy who was out on the street.
We went up to the car that’d been struck and helped remove two people, this guy and his pregnant wife.
The wife walked a few feet then feinted hard onto the pavement with a slapping sound.
This other woman came off the sidewalk came and knelt by the pregnant woman, helping revive and calm her, speaking Spanish.
The husband called for an ambulance, getting the address from someone at the end of the block.
I stood a few feet away, directing traffic around the accident.
Cars drove as I directed.
To them I was director and ruler.
A car to my left tried to pass but I put my hand up and shook my head.
No you may not.
When the same car timidly tried to pass around again I did a shrug and a face like, ‘This is how it’s going to be?’
Because I was the new traffic, buddy.
Whatever I say goes, so back the fuck up.
When I decided it was ok for that car to pass, I waved it forward but deliberately stared off to the side like I was too good to even make eye contact.
And I kept waving, like ‘Come on, hurry up.”
Eventually the ambulance and tow truck arrived.
EMTs loaded the pregnant woman onto a stretcher and put her in the ambulance.
I stood in the street for a second — not participating anymore, but still there.
Traffic moving on its own again, me with my hands down doing nothing.
All the glass on the street reflected colors from headlights and stoplights.
The road dark blue underneath.
If I had an ‘off’ switch, it would be then that I’d use it.
No probably not, I’d probably have already used it a thousand times.
On the sidewalk, I talked to the person who’d held the pregnant woman’s hand in the street.
It was basically us exchanging the word “Shit” in different ways.
Like we wanted to talk more, to just be around each other for a little bit, but I said, “Have a nice night,” and walked away.
Out front of a currency exchange, I saw this one paralyzed vet I always saw in the neighborhood.
He was in his wheelchair, face covered in dirt and head bent off to the side against a headrest thing.
Last time I saw him he was parked at a bus stop with a huge pastry of some kind taped to his hand–like regular office tape wrapped around his hand and wrist a bunch of times.
“Hi, um, can I have some money to get something to eat?” he said, tonight.
His voice was very quiet and high-pitched — muffled, like coming through his nose.
“Yeah what do you want,” I said.
He said, “Well um, from where?”
“Somewhere around here.”
He motioned with his finger at a place across the street. “Um, can I have a burrito maybe?”
“Um, steak I guess, please.”
As I waited to cross the street, he said, “Without the uh, any hot stuff, please.”
“No hot stuff.”
At the restaurant I ordered and stood by the register, staring at this bowl full of different-colored candy.
Well here it is — I thought.
Here is the bowl of different-colored candy.
May you all remain who you are through your differences, never becoming your differences.
The girl who took my order said, “You can sit down if you want.”
I sat down at a table and stared at the TV without paying attention, to avoid having to make other decisions about where to look.
A couple at the table by me laughed at something on the TV.
I turned to look at them, purely reacting to the sound.
Take cover, soldier!
But too late.
We’d all made eye contact and it seemed like I’d entered into some kind of agreement where we had to interact with each other.
Having looked at each other we now had to navigate the TV show together, our personal beliefs, our ideas, ourselves.
I’m going down – I thought.
And I tried to establish a good stare.
But it was hard.
Hold your ground, soldier!
My face felt hot, shoulders and neck tense.
I was about to surrender, get up and run out the door.
But then my food was ready.
Good determination, soldier!
I brought the food across the street.
The guy in the wheelchair took it with shaky hands.
I squatted with him, my back against a brick wall.
“You want napkins?” I said.
“Um, yes, please. That would be great.”
I gave him the napkins.
We ate together on the sidewalk.
Neither of us talked.
I could see him out of the corner of my eye.
He’d look at me once in a while.
I kept wiping my hand on the inside of the brown paper bag because I didn’t have a napkin.
It worked but it didn’t work.
Eventually, I said, “It’s nice out.”
“Oh, just beautiful,” he said.
Too beautiful for my stupid ass.
After a long silence, he said, “Hey there wouldn’t by any chance be a fork or spoon in that bag huh?”
I gave him a fork.
Hell, I had four!
He ate the scraps of his burrito that’d fallen out when he was eating, scraping the Styrofoam with the fork.
I finished my tacos, wiping my hands on the brown paper bag then wiping my mouth and face off with my sweaty arm.
“Alright, I’m going man,” I said.
“Ok bye. Thank you. God bless you.”
I took his garbage and my garbage and put it in the bag.
I threw out the garbage in a dumpster around the corner.
Image by @Doug88888
About the Author:
Sam pink lives in Chicago. His books are available through Lazy Fascist Press.