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No One Can See You

Sunday, 16 December 2012

On a Saturday night drive to the grocery store:

As I go into the right turn that will take me down the hill , across a busy intersection, underneath the interstate, and finally to the road where the grocery is, a bicycle races past me in the dark.  No lights near us anywhere, except a Christmas tree in the distance.  No lights on his bike, no reflector on the bike, no light clothing.  Why I don't hit him, I don't know, except that he has speed and I don't and he goes through the lane before I can get into it.

He looks back at the me, that sixty year old man on a one-speed bike more of the kind that would belong to a teenager without a car, like what the hell am I doing.  'I didn't see you,' I say out loud to counter his look, and we continue toward the intersection, unsure of our lanes, and he turns back to look at me again and his hat flies off and lands in the road.  I speed past him, leaving him to pull off and contend with oncoming traffic and what that will do to his hat.  

And I know that I have been lucky.

There is a turn before you get to road that the grocery is on, a back road that will get you to the same grocery parking lot, but in a more direct way.  It is almost an alley, and it runs past a low-rent (literally) motel where people live for weeks or months at a time.  I know nothing of their lives, except that the rooms open out onto the alley and sometimes people leave their doors open and sit on the concrete and talk between rooms.

On that dark Saturday night before the rain comes, I zip along that road and don't see the man walking alongside it towards me, on my side, right next to my car as I pass him.  His clothing is dark,too, and he makes no concession to my car.  He just walks.  I just miss.

By now, I am mad.  Isn't there a societal obligation to present yourself so that others can see you and not endanger you?  What are these people thinking?

I get my groceries and leave the store.  

On the road back to my house, a dark road with large drainage ditches on either side where the water rushes when it rains too much, where cats hunt rats in the dark, where streetlights are few and far between, I picture where I will turn into my neighborhood ahead.  What I don't picture is the family or partial family that walks along it, on my side, their backs to me, a mother, an older boy, and a small girl, or an older sister and brother and a girl, with a plastic bag and a destination, finishing the walk back to where they live, I guess, though it is late now.  Irritated, I think that they have no business being on this road.  It has no sidewalks.  It is not safe.  But it is the path from where to where.  

So I swerve more to the center of the road, them seemingly oblivious to my coming, my luck holding again, since no cars come towards me.  It is all I can do to get in my driveway, turn off the car, grab my bags, and know with some comfort that I will not be out again that night.

No one can see you, I think.  Don't you know that?  All of you are out where you shouldn't be, and you put me in danger by putting yourselves in danger.  My anger continues for a moment, then I am through the front door of my house and it is gone.

No one can see you.  But we pretend by day that we do.  We pretend.

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