by Gyoshin Laurel Ross
Driving toward my block, hoping for a parking space, I was annoyed when the pickup truck ahead of me suddenly slowed. Was he going to snag my spot? No. He turned left into the alley and as I pressed down to accelerate I saw the problem. A large black body was positioned in the middle of the narrow one-way street with cars parked on both sides. No way to avoid it except to duck down the alley as my predecessor had done.
I looked closer to see who or what it was. A woman dressed in black with several shopping bags, sitting up, not lying, in the street. She was alive—moving her arms as if to flag me down. I turned off my engine, put on my blinkers, and walked over to her. “Do you need help?” Stupid question. “Are you okay?” Equally stupid. No response.
She was flailing her arms, struggling to get up but there seemed no hope of that. “My knees are broken,” she wailed.
She wore a tattered face mask that hung loosely from her chin. “Let me move your things out of the street.” I was not comfortable touching her bags of groceries and her big leather purse, but it was easier than touching her.
I realized I had no choice and decided that I would have to try to get her up. She was not small and not strong and not positioned to easily maneuver. “Can you turn onto your hands and knees and crawl?” I pleaded. No answer.
Why were no other cars arriving on the scene? Time seemed to have stopped.
Finally I gave her my hands and tried to lift her from her bum onto her feet. I am strong for an old woman but after a few seconds of this it was clear that there was no chance I could move her. She was agitated. I reached for my phone to call 911, thinking I should have stayed in my car and done that immediately.
At this point a short, dark young man emerged from the alley and walked directly toward us as if to join the fray. The pickup driver! He had stashed his vehicle and returned to help.
With his strength and my assistance from the rear we pulled her to her feet and it appeared that her knees were not broken. She could stand. She could slowly walk.
“Where are you going?” She pointed to an apartment building 50 feet away. I moved her bags to the door and noticed a large box of cheap wine among her groceries. She would need that.
To the young man she said, “You are my angel.” “Do you want me to call an ambulance?” he asked. “No! No! No!”
At this point my concern about the intimacy of my contact with an unhealthy looking, unclean smelling old stranger overcame my impulse to be a good Samaritan. She was out of the street. The young man would get her into her apartment.
I raced to my car, sprayed disinfectant on the steering wheel and door handle, parked and ran to my own apartment where I immediately stripped off my clothing and got into the shower.
Not an easy interlude. No way to be kind or even humane. She must have seen the disgust and fear on my face as I overcame my revulsion to touch her.
Who is she? She is my neighbor. Will I see her again?
My gratitude to the angel who saved her is immense. He saved us both. He did not seem revolted by her condition as I was and he did not seem concerned for himself as I was.
I might be that woman in the street one day soon. I pray for an angel to appear.