On Wednesday evening I was in a bus on Waiyaki Way headed to the CBD. There was gridlock, viscous traffic that made cars jerk and abruptly stop. Drivers trying not to kiss the tailgate of the car before them. The last thing you want to do in the evening is kill time pacifying a feisty driver hell-bent on calling the cops. The area was a frenetic pace of activity; vehicles honked – haggard faces behind the wheels, perhaps, intrapersonally castigating the government for its complacency on matters roads. Pedestrians milled about. Some walked on pacy legs, with a sense of urgency, trying to catch a ride home. Some sauntered, their limbs relenting to the throes of a long day. Women clutched their handbags to their sides lest a miscreant attempts yanking it away. Listless faces of passengers patronized other buses, most with their face masks drawn to their chins. Tinkering with their phones, trying to ascertain if the episode they had download prompted over the office Wi-Fi yielded. Or maybe listening to a podcast. Or catching a log post. A traffic cop controls the traffic, his hat sparkling against the light. Signaling the cars with his hand, eminent power. Beckoning at dandy cars that gobble gallons of fuel, cars that reek might. To jalopy cars that have seen colossal bums and mileage, running on whiffs of fuel. Just by the wave of his hand they act. The sun shone bashfully, hiding its face behind the skyscrapers of Westlands. Peeking through my window sporadically. A street urchin ambled across the highway hapharzadly, with a self-assured gait. A bottle of gum to his mouth. Vehicles stopping to let him get out of their hair. He knew he had the power, and boy was he milking it. The king of the road.
On the other lane, I notice a big boned woman exert herself to crossing the road. A heavy bag is perched on her back. Those huge box like laptop bags with sharp edges. It’s an easy task to cross the road but I can tell it’s strenuous to her. The bag is pulling her back, working against her will to get to the other side. She acquiesced and keeled on her back right in the middle of the road. She propped on her palms to sit, I bet veins popped in her head as she partook this herculean task. She slumped down again, tenuously holding out her right arm for help, wherever it comes from.
Her angel surfaced, in the form of a dark, tall, and waif guy in a bluish singlet and black pants. Not a wink over 25. He had budding dreadlocks that someday hope to achieve their maximum length. Maybe they would if he is maverick enough and they would rock against his back whilst he walked. Maybe not, for the many impediments that might come his way and he would cut them off, resorting to staring at his lost glory in pictures. That’s not in his mind. For now he is focused on helping up a woman.
He grabs her arm, puts it across his neck and heaves her to stand on her legs. From the way his back is hunched I can tell she is heavy, maybe it’s the bag. Our protagonist is straining. Her legs drag across the tarmac as more people offer help. She makes it to the side street and is lain on her back, her bag a makeshift pillow. Folk surround her, one tries pushing them away for her to get more air. The dreadlocked guy walks away, once, turning to look back and goes out of sight.
The traffic abates and the bus I’m in zooms past. The incident plays in my head. I mused over a lot; the contents in her bag. If she had scored some household items and was trying to get them home. If heaven forbid she had a medical condition. Those ones that visit from the blues. What played in her mind as she fell on the street, away from home. If she had children, frolicking, unbeknownst to them that their mom lies helpless on Waiyaki Way, at the mercy of strangers, one in dreadlocks.
I hoped she got home safe later on that day and whilst she fixed food she made gab with her children. Telling them she passed out by the roadside. Her children would gaze at her with indifference because the only thing dogging them at the moment is hunger. Their faces sulking. The last born kid will have rheumy eyes and will ask ‘Are you fine Ma’? Who helped you?’ She will look at him and smile. The apple of her eye, imbued with compassion. She wouldn’t know who helped her. Her vision was blurred. Her head woozy. Everything a cloud of haziness. She will try to place faces in vain. She will flimsily recall someone holding her up when she was falling. And someone fanning her face. She will stretch her hand and fluff the kid’s mane. The kid won’t dwell on it. He will requite the smile and wait for food.
Her paths with the dreadlocked bloke will never cross again. They won’t even recognize each other if they ever came close. The chap will go about his life amassing more gaudy singlets and gaining more growth on his locks. She would go on with her life too, trying to make it home safe and downsize on the sizes of bags on her back.
Okay, I don’t know how to end this, but maybe try a little tenderness.