She isn’t late. But she says
“God! The traffic is awful this morning.”
Her colleague is pretending to care.
“Yes, it is.”
I noticed it too: I was walking to where I had left my bike. Cars were humming beside me. I looked at the drivers. One wore a black suit and poorly ironed blue shirt; he was picking his nose. He didn’t notice that I could see him. Nor did he notice that the car ahead of him had slowly pulled ahead. When, at last, he saw the pavement in front of him he revved his engine and lurched forward, greedily covering the ten meters before stopping again. I could hear other drivers doing the same. I unlocked my bicycle. There were road works. Big trucks. Orange lights. Obstructed traffic. And so the cars sat still while my bike rattled past. Idling in driveways and at traffic lights: waiting to join the queue of nose-picking professionals. Lurching and braking; abdominal segments of a maggot.
I didn’t notice when a gap opened on my right. I didn’t see the truck turn into it. I heard the hissing of the truck’s brakes. Heat radiated from my hip. I looked at my shoe. The stones of the pavement coagulated. Grey.
I looked up and saw the underside of a van: my head beneath the rear wheels, my body splayed under the tow bar. My side was throbbing. I lay still: my head felt as it does when I wake up at the wrong time — drugged by the full weight of sleep. I looked across to my bicycle and felt affection for it. As if I were waking up in the morning and looking across at a lover still sleeping. We lay there together. I saw that my bicycle’s wheel was kinked.
People gathered to talk to me. My head was still groggy so I didn’t welcome their approach. There were three: the truck-man, the bad Samaritan, and the good Samaritan. The truck-man had parked and was getting out. The bad Samaritan was in a nearby car: he couldn’t decide whether to get out. I heard the truck-man’s enquiry.
I made my way up to sitting on the sidewalk. The bad Samaritan decided that he really ought to see if he could help.
“Can I help?”
Truck-man started speaking, quickly, and more to the bad Samaritan than to me.
“He was in the bike lane right behind that van. I didn’t have a chance of seeing him until I was across the turn. I didn’t even see him until I was practically on top of him.”
“Ah. Shame. Can’t be helped, I guess.”
At some point the truck-man and the bad Samaritan agreed that they had done all that was required. They walked away. I didn’t miss them. A man, the good Samaritan, was walking his dog on the other side of the street. He carefully crossed.
“I saw everything.”
“Really awful. Are you alright?”
“Yeah, I think so.”
Without further questioning, he set about restoring my bicycle’s chain to a fit state. Until then I hadn’t noticed that it had fallen off. He finished his work quickly and sat with me a while. But I suddenly grew self-aware and assured him that he could leave. I got up and walked with my maimed bicycle past the road works. The kinked wheel squeaked as it rolled around. A yellow sign read “sorry for the inconvenience.”
At the hospital, the radiology nurses are still expounding their thesis on how bad the traffic is. The first nurse is unhappy with the second’s lackadaisical response.
“Like, I don’t think I’ve ever seen it this bad.”
“I guess it’s the road works… Or maybe the Christmas rush?”
“Oh yeah! Not too many days to go now!”
“Have you done your Christmas shopping?”
“I’m way behind… I’ll have to drive over to the mall after work.”