Mar 5, 2007

In Chinatown

I almost killed a man in Chinatown.

It was a shiny black night and red lights glowed wet and bright and I was race-walking along Canal to get to the store that sells the Naruto headbands before it closed because Amos had promised Ziggy that that’s what he was giving him for his birthday.

As I approached a somewhat empty intersection I glanced down the oncoming street and, without breaking my stride, calculated that I could make it to the other side before the fast car half way down the block would reach me.

Without hesitating, I stepped into the street and began to glide across.

Several steps in, I made eye contact with an approaching man who was about to step into the street I was about to vacate. It was clear he was making his own crosswalk calculations based on my uninterrupted gait and I noticed that he wasn’t even looking for traffic because he must have read my face and my pace as being nonchalant without realizing how close I was cutting it--my being in such a hurry to get that headband and all.

I had a flash of wondering if I should warn him that a car was bearing down on us--but a disconnected flash, at best. Almost like I was reading about him in a magazine or seeing him in a commercial on tv. I was mildly curious at how much trust he was putting in me--a perfect stranger not even in the same MTV demographic--and at the same time I felt no responsibility towards him.

As I stepped up on the curb and out of harm’s way, a buddy of his I hadn’t noticed before reached for his arm and screeched him to a halt. From the sound of alarm in the friend’s voice it was a close call.

I kept up my pace to the store that carries the Naruto headband and made it just in time--the lady was in the way back and had clearly given up on having any more customers. I had a warm, if not fluent, convesation with her about the differences in sizes and prices, and chose the one that cost eight dollars.

I keep thinking about the man though. If we were in a movie the icy glance of disconnection on my face as I moved past him would be an obvious window into my level of evilness.

But I don’t think I’m that bad.

It’s almost like he almost fell victim to my tendency, as I get older, to believe I know how things will turn out. It’s like I’m surrounded by multiple choice questions and “c) the stranger is mashed flast by the speeding car” wasn’t one of the possible answers.

Instead of being humbled by all the times I couldn’t have predicted certain outcomes--like the time the garbage truck smashed into my car even though I’d slammed on the brakes with what should have been suffficient timing based on all the other times stopping on a dime had prevented an accident, I seem to walk around the planet with an ever-boldening sense that I know that things will end up ok.

So this stranger ended up ok. He probably learned that he should look down the streets himself, and not rely on the faces and paces of strangers. And I’m either slightly chilled by the memory of what might have happened, or standing firm in my belief that I had no responsibility in the matter. I’m not sure yet.

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