Monday, June 28, 2010


by Zinta Aistars

Handsome young man with downcast eyes, my son's age. None of which I saw when he shot out of the alley and out into the street, his bike and body slamming into the side of my passing car. I stood with him in the alley after he got up and limped back into the shadows, his bike one-wheeled. Waiting for the ambulance. Homeless. Had been in a hurry. Couldn't, wouldn't say to where.

I touched his arm. Thick with muscle. "Are you all right? Are you sure?"

He moved from one sneakered foot to the other, watching his own feet. It was evident he was trying not to limp.

"Yes, fine."

Big man, towering over me, broad shoulders meant for a football field, but he seemed afraid to look me in the eye. Still, I sensed something good, even as I wondered if he was racing out into the street like that, not looking, for a wrong reason.

The bicycle's front wheel had come loose. The tire had gone flat. He gazed at it with a look of lost hope.

"Perhaps someplace I can take that bike ... "

He shrugged a little, glanced back down the alley. "Brother, that way ... "

His brown cheek glistened with sweat. His hair was trimmed, not so long ago ... what was this important thing waiting that he had to reach in such a hurry? I offered my phone but he shook his head no, still not meeting my eyes, or quick glance and look away.

The patrol car with siren blaring and swirling lights sped by. I stepped out of the alley to wave him back, but he turned onto Ionia Avenue. He'll be back.

He let a bit more weight rest on his left foot, held, then released again. He'd already told me, no health insurance, but the ambulance was on its way.

Patrol car returned, and an officer lept out and came toward us, leaned to check the bicyclist's leg while I went for my papers, registration, insurance, license. A new dent gleamed on my car's passenger side panel.

Could have been worse, I told myself. So much so. Driving home, work day behind me, evening ahead, thinking about the row of white petunias still to be planted alongside the front steps to the walk, heading out of town toward the interstate, one more turn ...

Another officer handed me a yellow card with incident report number. "You can go," she said.

"Is he ... "

"They'll fix him up in the ambulance, he won't need to go into emergency. He's all right."

"Even so ... "

"Yes," she nodded, getting it.

"I'd like to contact him. I have a bike at home. Bought it a little while ago, used."

"He has no address, but I'll ask... wait." And she went back to the ambulance, a moment later returned with a slip of paper: his name, a cell phone number.

I drive home in silence, windows open, near 60 miles to go, thinking ... one moment this way, next moment, that.

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