تماشاچی

کتاب: زندگی در چند بخش / فصل 31

تماشاچی

توضیح مختصر

  • زمان مطالعه 7 دقیقه
  • سطح خیلی سخت

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متن انگلیسی فصل

Bystander

Those with the means to flee Manhattan had fled. The rest of us were miserably sweating out the heavily oppressive August humidity and heat. I was more miserable than most. A week earlier, I’d stopped by a salad bar to pick up a healthy lunch, and I’d also picked up a parasite—a tapeworm. I was taking antibiotics to kill the microscopic beast, but after a week of severe stomach cramps, I wasn’t so sure I wanted to live, either. I couldn’t venture too far from a toilet. Fortunately my doctor’s office was around the corner from my apartment.

My doctor was Dr. Constantine Generales. I was equally comforted by his name and proximity—near my apartment, directly across the street from the famous Dakota apartment building. As I was approaching the corner on Seventy-First to head north on Central Park West, I heard a loud BANG!—the nasty sound of metal and glass, instantly recognizable as a car crash. Instinctually, I ran to the corner. A woman was pointing. I saw a man lying just street-side of the row of parked cars. I was the first one to him. He looked up at me with panic in his eyes. I muttered, “It’s okay,” though I had no idea whether it was going to be okay. It didn’t look good. Shattered glass was everywhere. His body was severely mangled. He obviously had broken bones. Blood was spilling out from under him. I yelled back to the woman to go inside and call 911. Stunned, she hesitated, and I yelled the instruction again. She fled toward the building’s lobby.

I checked to see if the man was still breathing. He was. He had dark hair. He was in his late thirties, older than me, but not by much. I cradled his head in my hands to keep it off the asphalt. I looked down and noticed my hands were covered in blood. I looked up and spotted another bystander in the street directing oncoming traffic away from us. The injured man was staring directly at me, pleading with his eyes for help. I started to feel woozy—my stomach condition, the excessive heat, the blood on my hands, and this stranger looking to me to save his life. A large crowd was gathering. “Did someone call an ambulance?” I yelled.

A doorman shouted, “It’s on the way!”

The man was now starting to convulse. His color was disappearing. I was losing him. “It’s all right. You’re going to be all right. The ambulance is almost here.” I yelled to no one in particular, “Did anyone see the car that hit him?” A quick scan of the bystanders indicated the answer was no. “Did it stop?” Again, no one responded. I guess it didn’t matter at that moment. I was just searching for answers.

All of a sudden someone’s hands were replacing my own on the wounded man’s head. I felt another person help me up. I turned to see that paramedics were there and assisting both of us. I was escorted to the sidewalk and asked if I felt okay. I probably answered yes, though I had no idea how I was. I remember the paramedic touching my hands a lot. Later I realized he must have been trying to wipe off the man’s blood.

I was now reduced to a spectator myself, which struck me as unfair. I was cast aside to watch like every other pedestrian. An odd feeling. I’d made a connection with the man. I had been his caretaker. I needed to stay involved. Also, I needed to find the driver and make him see what he had done.

I turned to the doorman and asked if he saw what happened. “No,” he said, “I was inside. I heard the noise and came out. I just can’t believe he’d do that.”

“What do you mean? Do what?”

The doorman muttered a name I don’t remember and raised his chin at the man in the street. “He lives in the building. I heard he was sick . . . but I never thought he would kill himself.”

No one saw a vehicle hit him—because there was none. For the first time I noticed the car that was parked right next to the man lying in the street. Its entire roof and windshield were smashed in—from above. How could I have not seen that before? I just assumed the glass came from the phantom vehicle, the vehicle that had threatened the life of this man whom I had come to know intimately, and yet never knew at all. I looked skyward at the building behind us on the southwest corner of Seventy-First and CPW. It was tall, maybe twenty stories.

“He lived up on fourteen,” the doorman said.

Everything completely shifted at that moment. When I thought this man had been hit by a car I was eager to help, concerned about his life. When I realized that he was committing suicide, I felt that he had lied to me. Of course he hadn’t, but it felt that way. I was angry. I’d held him and told him that he’d be all right—his pleading gaze searched for reassurance, and I gave it. The few moments we shared together were powerful. Bonding. Or so I’d thought. Now I didn’t know what to think. I felt somehow victimized as well as traumatized.

I was becoming nauseated. I didn’t want to pass out there. I had to see my doctor. As I turned to go I saw a flash of something white in the street. I was dehydrated and dizzy, but the movement drew my attention. A clean white sheet was being draped over the man in the street.

It had been only a few months since I’d been curled up in a ball while Ava banged on my door. How easily I could have killed her. How close I’d come. For me, the madness soon passed into memory. But this man had acted on his.

What a sight I must have been when I appeared at my doctor’s office, covered in sweat, traces of blood on my hands and face. A nurse took care of me, and I got an ice pack for my head and an IV bag full of electrolytes.

An hour later, I returned to the scene. I needed to see it. A small patch of darkened blood had seeped into the asphalt, the only evidence that something profound had transpired on this spot. Another car had parked where the damaged car had been. Cabs honked, families strolled. I stood there like a statue, weak, shaky, poisoned, questioning. I recalled that across the street from my doctor’s office, a block away from where the man had jumped, was the Dakota, a grand old residential building, where an assassin had murdered John Lennon just a few years earlier.

I looked at the blood. I felt how tenuous the boundary is between life and its opposite. I felt how limited our span is, and how easily squandered. And I felt the need to embrace life. Put my arms around it.

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