Posts Tagged ‘stranger’

To read what I have written lately, you would think that I have not thought about Eva for some time. This isn’t the case – indeed, it’s quite difficult to forget someone you met under such dramatic circumstances so quickly. The reason I haven’t written more about her is that I find it difficult to establish any sort of firm opinion about her.

I mean, I don’t really know what to think. Do I still owe her something, some sort of support or even friendship? Does the knowledge that she has no one, that she’s miserable and wounded, and that I’m the only one who knows, cast upon me the responsibility for her welfare? Well, no, of course not. I barely know her. I’ve barely met her. And yet it would seem particularly callous at this point to leave her to the fates, and not spare her a thought nor a second of my time.

I did leave her my number. She took it. She seemed grateful. Is that enough?

Something is telling me no.

Plagued by indecision, I set out this morning in the direction of the hospital. God, I don’t even know if she’s still there. She could be anywhere, really.

I wandered through the University. As I approached the carpark leading up along the side of the hospital, next to one of the University’s residential colleges, I noticed a kookaburra on a railing, making quite a lot of noise and generally broadcasting his existence to the world.

It’s actually amazing how close he let me get to take the picture – my phone camera does not have zoom. I stood listening to him awhile, pondering how the human brain superimposes human speech onto animal calls. I almost wanted to have a conversation with this bird. In fact, scrap that. I did want to have a conversation with this bird. I suspect birds may be a lot more interesting to talk to than most people.

In my mind, this one was cutting me a deal. “Food,” it said. “Bring me food, and I will make you rich and famous beyond your wildest dreams. You will have anything you want.” Kookaburras are cunning things. Anything to get a free meal. I have vivid memories of visiting an elderly relative as a small child, and leaving out tiny pieces of uncooked steak for the kookaburras. They would swoop down like fighter jets, and the morsel would be gone before you knew it.

“Ah, wily kookaburra,” I told it, “it is not that I do not believe you. But fame and fortune are more than I can handle today. Besides, I have nothing to give you.”

“Fine.” The kookaburra ruffled its wings, looked me sharply in the eye and warned, “You had your chance. I can bring kings to the throne, you know. Maybe I’ll go offer incredible things to some other lowly sap. Some other lowly sap with a pantry.”

“Good luck with that.” I waved to it cheerfully and continued on my way. But by the time I reached the hospital my confidence was gone. She does have my number. If she wanted to see me, she would call. She doesn’t even know me. I’m just some strange guy who found her on the street. And one who is arguably not completely in possession of his senses at present. He’s talking to birds, after all.

I hovered near the entrance, watching the automatic doors open and shut. I couldn’t cross. I went home. Maybe the old man was right – some walls are there for a reason, even if they’re inside your head.


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Midnight Encounters

A strange and turbulent night. I’m still trying to get my head around it.

Sunday is always quiet. I could probably handle the bar on my own on Sundays, but Joanie always rosters James on as well. Actually, James is very quiet himself. It’s difficult to carry on a conversation with him, so mostly we work in a companionable silence. Last night the television was an easy distraction to break the silence – the Closing Ceremony provided plenty of noise and colour. It’s funny, but I’ve missed almost the entire Olympics – I don’t think I’ve seen a single whole event.

Anyway, I was in my usual not-quite-all-there Sunday frame of mind on my way home. Somewhere, a church bell struck twelve. Heading through Victoria Park, I was just contemplating a nice hot drink and a good night’s sleep when a figure lurched out from behind one of the benches.

Now, I know it sounds awful, but homeless people tend to freak me out. I find it unnerving when I realise someone is staring at me, and for some reason I tend to get stared at by the homeless quite frequently. It’s too piercing. Too exposing.

This girl, however, was not staring at me. If anything, she was staring around me, but to be honest I don’t think she was seeing a single thing. Her lips moved slightly as she lurched down the path towards the place where I was standing, uncertain whether to walk away or… or to wait. She was limping very badly, and as she came under a streetlight I noticed the blood. Quite a lot of blood. I don’t think she was feeling the pain, as such. Certainly if she was she wouldn’t have been able to walk. I was just staring at the mess of her right foot as she tripped, stumbled and fell against me, clutching at my shirt. I caught a whisper of the words she was mumbling, something like “prince” or “dance”. Carefully, slowly, I lowered her onto the nearest seat, and tried to look at her face. Again I had the strange feeling that she was not seeing me at all, and her eyes were bruised, with a cut running over each eyebrow. I forced myself to look down at her foot again. It seemed that in her semi-conscious state she’d stepped right into a broken glass bottle, slicing off a large chunk of her heel. Even worse, the bottle’s fragments had stuck into her sole, almost like some horrible kind of shoe. And she was losing too much blood. I hailed down the nearest taxi – even on a Sunday there are plenty heading along Parramatta Road, and it was still, I reckoned, quicker than calling an ambulance – and carried the girl to the back seat.

“RPA Hospital, please, quickly,” I gasped to the driver.

“You kidding? It’s just the other side of the University.” He moved out into the middle lane.

“Too far for her to walk like this.” I gestured to the foot, the blood. He glanced into the rearview mirror.

“… the fuck… She’s bleeding all over the fucking seat!” the driver yelled.

“Just get us there, please. I’ll give you an extra twenty bucks.”

I couldn’t wrap her foot in anything or even apply pressure to stop the bleeding, because I didn’t want to push the glass any further into her flesh. It really was only a short drive, and I thrust two tens and a five dollar note at the driver and pulled the girl out as best as I could without hurting her. She was almost unconscious at this point.

As I carried her into the emergency room – she barely weighed a thing, mostly skeleton and filthy clothes – I realised I’d been an idiot. Cases called in by ambulance were rushing through, and the room was crowded with people waiting to be seen. Wouldn’t have cost me twenty five bucks, either. I caught the attention of one of the nurses and she helped me settle the girl into one of those horrible chairs while she took a look at her foot.

“I’ll get her bumped right up the list,” the nurse told me. “She may have severed some pretty important blood vessels there. Is she a relative, a friend?”

“No,” I said, “I just found her in the park, in Victoria Park.”

“And you didn’t call an ambulance?” asked the nurse incredulously.

I shrugged, and the nurse shook her head but didn’t say anything more. It only took five minutes for them to rush the girl away, while the same nurse pulled me aside to sign a few forms. She told me it might be a while before they could remove all the glass, as it was a delicate injury. I wrote down my phone number, and asked them to call me when they knew how she was going to be.

What a tense weekend, I thought, as I made my way back home. First Joanie, now this – nothing remotely like that has ever happened to me before. It’ll go down in my own history as The Night I Took A Complete Stranger to the Hospital. I don’t think I can bear to wonder how that girl got into such a state.

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