by Greg Belliveau
“Let’s make hope our New Year’s resolution,” my wife said. I was doubtful, but after a year of good things, a new job, a new child, a new town with new potential, someplace away from those lurking obstacles, rusted, jagged things that leave us wounded – after such a good year… sure, why not hope. Tomorrow was the first day of class, and I wanted to keep the Mojo going. I would bring cookies.
It was close to four in the afternoon, and the sun was out and the sky a deep blue and students grouped and goof-awed and hurried to their next class or their dorm rooms, the coffee shop, a bar. I pulled into the turning lane and stopped just before the pedestrian walkway and thought about how I really needed to secure the adjunct position for next semester, if I had time, maybe after class. A young Asian woman, maybe eighteen, in suede boots and grey sweats, a blue coat pulled up against the cold, December breeze glanced up at me, I nodding, she looking down the road, I waving her onward, and she hurried across the front of my car. I watched her pass, and watched the red blur of a truck come up from my right, watched her fold into the grill, watched her launch into the air, a shockwave, a thunder, a thud, and squeals as the body spun, legs spread and splayed out then landing, crumpled onto the gray pavement thirty, twenty, ten yards away.
I ran from my car. I pulled out my phone, but my fingers dialed useless numbers, helpless, confused. “Call 911,” I said. “Call 911” I shook my head, staring at the keypad: 999999991111111111112222222222. A man in a green truck with his window down yelled, “I called the police. I called them.”
I knelt down next to her neck and face, blood in her mouth, her nose, her ears, body curled, left arm out, palm up, and she cried for her family. She was young, an international student: China?
“Don’t move,” I said. “You mustn’t move.”
“Don’t move,” another man said.
She stared into space and cried out as her body registered and reported the damage. “I want my family,” she said and rolled and cried.
“Don’t move,” I said. “Help is on the way.”
“I want my family,” she said, the blood on her lips, outlining her nostrils, her fingers bent into a claw. The man next to me said, “You mustn’t move.”
“It will be okay,” I said. “Help is on the way. I can hear them.” I looked and listened, and the silence and the huddling, helpless people, waiting, waiting for someone, something to come, made my stomach hurt. “You’ll be okay,” I said. I lied. “It’s okay.”
“My chest,” she said. “I want my family.”
“You mustn’t move,” the man next to me said.
I stared into her eyes, grayish white and rolled up. We heard sirens.
“They are coming,” I said. “You’ll be okay.” I wanted to scream, to sob, to rend my clothing like some Jewish Elder, an ancient act of grief, but I held her hand, lightly, barely a touch, impotent, “You’re okay.” But she just looked up into the sky or deep inside her memory, a place to map and interpret the chaos.
The paramedics arrived and the police – truck after truck, car after car, quarantining the area, blocking the traffic, stopping time. They pulled her wrecked body straight feeling her bones and pulse, listening to her lungs, shackling her neck in foam. She groaned and they whispered to each other in a technical language, lifting her upon the wooden board, strapping her down with bands of yellow canvas, hoisting her upon the wheeled gurney to the cave of tubes and bandages and electrical monitors in the back of the ambulance.
It was while I filled out the witness report that someone noticed her black glasses bent and folded. Someone else found her scarf near the rise of the curb.
I didn’t teach that day, couldn’t teach. I spoke to my class in a brief shaky voice, my plans evaporated, exhausted, made unrecognizable, irrelevant by the previous storm. I passed out cookies, a consolation prize for being present, cookies my wife and year old daughter lathered in Christmas icing, laughing, poking, dabbing, constructing, intentional grace. Then, left alone in the room, I called my wife, the words vibrating through space, trembling, breaking, broken, a barbaric yawp, gulps of air. I walked to my car in fog.
When I pulled into Lot C, a vast expanse of grass below, ethereal blue above, cloudless, cold – I could see the helicopter lift, like a metal dragonfly, hover, dip and fly south in the fading light of day.
“They have good doctors there,” a lady wrapped in wool said. “They know what to do.”
I thought of her in that thin-skinned thing racing to hope. She was somebody’s little girl, maybe adopted, who perhaps made cookies with her mother during the year of Hope, who woke this morning with hope, a better day, a better class, a better life, the world as a pearl and not a jagged piece of rust purposefully placed to snag our flesh. And I thought of my child who will grow up and go to school, will study hard or not, and find herself at the beginning of a semester thinking of home, the memory of the familiar, a community of hope, the comforting hands that hold, and one day she will scurry across campus in her gray sweats and blue coat, scurry across parking lots and side streets, thinking about algebra or how the workshop will go today, scurry and stop at a pedestrian walk, hesitate, look up and trust the hand that waves her across. “It’s okay,” he’ll say, “everything will be okay.”