I was riding home from work. It was half past nine. I thought about the packs of potato chips I had to pick on my way back for the kids. I thought about the conversations I had over coffee with new friends. I thought about the hugs that would welcome me home, the dinner that was waiting to be served, the bills that can wait for a few more weeks before they were paid, the marshland-kissed breeze that kept buzzing inside my helmet.
I was lost in an ocean of thoughts when the wheels screeched as I braked my scooter. I slowed down to the red blinking lights from vehicles that had hustled to a side of the road. I stopped my scooter. As I walked closer to the crowd, everything around me seemed to move at snail pace. The urgent voice of a man talking on the phone was fading into the background. The sound of strained heartbeats of another man, who lay twisted and nonmoving on the ground, was getting louder. His head seemed to be swimming in a pool of blood. I could not understand the sudden shift in reality.
I blinked. I bent down and patted his shoulder willing him to move, just a little – a sign, perhaps, that he was still holding his ground against the grim reaper. The noise from the crowd faded into nothing. The blood continued to spread and embrace the road. The headlights from the car that was guilty beamed on the cheap backpack that clung to the limp shoulders of the man. A crumpled ten rupee note lay ignored a few inches away from his head dreading the blood that will soon drown it. I was feeling dizzy and thought I would collapse next to him. The air was beginning to fill with a mixed stench of blood, dampness, tar, and impending death. I patted him again on his shoulder before pulling myself up and walking back to my scooter. As I did, I saw flashes of something similar that kept playing repeatedly in my head the last couple of days.
It could have been me lying there limp after being dragged a few yards away from a car that hit me – a side of my face stuck to the tar road in a pool of blood slowly oozing out of my ear, the last 28 years rewound and playing hurriedly before my eyes that were already shut tight, the voice of a man giving directions to the ambulance fading into the loud but slow thumping of my heart, and the lights failing one after another, as someone’s hand patted my shoulder willing me to stay alive.
Life is so fragile.