The glowing orange hand turns to a white silhouette—a unisex, disproportionately thicc-armed humpback person, frozen mid-stride—the numbers ticking down beneath it. I step from the curb and enter the dizzying stripes of the crosswalk, emoting nothing but the blasé attitude of someone who is no longer impressed by the marvel of balance and energy transfer called walking. Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot.
I cross in front of two lanes of stopped northbound traffic, passing a sedan and then a city bus, broad, red, and heavily be-windowed. I smile at the bus driver, my head turned left toward him as I step past the double yellow line, painted to protect drivers from other drivers, and apparently no one else. He gives no indication of peril, but also no indication of friendliness.
I cross the threshold of macadam bumblebee stripes, from northbound to southbound, from bus-provided shade to unfettered sunlight, and suddenly, I am robbed of the lazy, unencumbered peace of my morning commute.
Light travels faster than sound, than touch, than smell. We see the oncoming train, the leaping lion, the falling anvil, and it allows us the honor of seeing our lives flash before our eyes. It grants us the dignity of self-reflection and one last burst of adrenaline to perhaps find our way to safety. But on this day, in this crosswalk, I’m given no such thing. I feel and see and hear the strike simultaneously.
I am tossed like a toddler in a torrent.
A white passenger truck, the kind a contractor would drive from job to job, makes a left turn into my right thigh, its silver bumper smashing into my exposed gam like a schoolboy flirt-punching another schoolboy on whom he has a secret, silent, repressed crush. In fear and disbelief, my floral snapback hat dismounts my head and lands beside me. Yes, I too am on the ground, though I’ve managed to break my fall with my hands, now peppered and scraped with tiny, angry sand granules.
Before I even realize what has happened, I spring up like finished toast. I am heated. I am burned. I am ready to jam a bitch. Then, the driver makes his second big mistake: He speaks first.
“You weren’t looking!” he doth protest too much, his truck still angled across both lanes of a crosswalk that does not belong to him, while the numbers beneath the muscley-armed crosswalk figure still tick down. It’s still my turn, but the trucking troglodyte blocks this forsaken passage across, and redefines the meaning of “trolling.”
He drives a vehicle that is weighed in tons and measures its work rate in horsepower. I’m underweight from grief and would be more likely to measure my work rate in bunnypower. And yet, this fucking guy—a chubby-fingered, distant cousin to bears whose face looks swollen because he eats cold cut sandwiches—wants to yell at me. Because I’m the one who wasn’t looking.
I shriek at him like a righteous banshee, howling to the great beyond.
He slowly rolls his dumbtruck forward, and I realize at once that this is the beginning of the end of this transaction. “DON’T YOU DARE DRIVE AWAY!” I spit, still in full-blown demonic hellpup mode, my eyes bulging like a terrified cartoon.
He shows a patronizing smile of someone who has no plans of exiting his vehicle, no plans of exchanging insurance or contact information, no plans of being decent or empathetic or responsible. “Well. . .” he trails off with feigned concern, the way a bully apologizes to his victim in the principal’s office, “are you OH-KAY?” His tone is not just cavalier, but almost incredulous that someone who he struck with his truck might be injured.
I pat my body parts like a toddler singing, “Heads, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes,” and realize I am superhuman and without notable or significant injury. “I GUESS SO!” I yell, prematurely. He is not dismissed. He has not apologized. I am not done yelling at him. He has not yet been told that blind people cross the street without looking. That the whole purpose of the walk sign is to eliminate questions with regard to whom has the right of way. That he was wrong. That I was right.
But it’s too late. He begins rolling, and seconds later, with the walk sign still indicating it’s my turn, he is gone.
I exhale, allowing the very last remnants of my faith in mankind to escape my lungs, and finish crossing the street. Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot. And when I safely make it to the other side of the street, I look back in anger, ignoring the advice of Oasis, circa 1995. There sits my lonely, innocent hat abandoned on the double yellow line.
When the light changes back to a walk sign, I dawdle. I freeze. I consider whether this is a “shame me twice” scenario. Whether I should keep marching and leave the past behind.
So, I walk back to the middle of the street with heightened sensory cognizance of every vehicle and driver and pedestrian in a 15 mile radius. I am ALERT. I approach my hat and kneel beside it, a wounded, orphaned cub in need of medical attention. I lift it, tenderly swipe my hand over the seams, and place it backwards on my melon, looking out behind us.
We belong together.