So...I had just gotten us onto the street. Martha was in front of me. She was looking at something. I don’t know what. A shop window, maybe. Someone walking in front of her. And I was watching her...
She. Was. Falling.
I tried to get to her. I was too far away. She was falling face forward. She was falling to the concrete. She was falling to the sidewalk. I heard her scream.
I knew she would hit the ground. I was terrified.
Then...she did not, as I had feared she would, go to one side or the other. I did not see her impale her face on one of the sharp posts of the little iron fence to the left of us. She did not impact her skull on the building to the right of us.
She went straight down. But, she protected herself. Her hands went up. She didn’t put out her arms, straight, desperately, which would have resulted almost certainly in broken bones. Rather, she pulled her arms close to her chest, put her hands up, before her face, palms up, protecting herself and her head...so that even when she impacted the ground, her face would go into her palms, not into the cement..
She told me later she had no memory of doing any of that....but, by God! She did it. Must have been something they taught her in all those physical therapy classes after her fall in January. Or, maybe the Tai Chi classes. Whatever, she did it instinctively. Protecting herself automatically. Relying on the wisdom of reflexes and spine stem. Bypassing the frontal cortex entirely.
Then...I was beside her. I was kneeling on the ground. I was checking her. Nothing broken as near as I could tell. No head injuries. No second breaks in the hips or the legs or the spine. She managed to roll over on her hip. She grimaced in pain, but it was the pain of bruises and scrapes, not that of serious injury.
Yes, I was terrified.
She was furious. Why, why, why! she wanted to know, had she not been looking where she was going? Why hadn’t she looked at her feet! Why hadn’t she seen it?
I glanced at where she was looking. Sure enough, one of the concrete slabs of the walkway was angled upward. The roots of the tree had lifted it long ago...the inexorable power of nature...
She wasn’t in shock, as near as I could tell. She was enraged, but nothing else. I let her sit for a while. I didn’t want to move her too soon. Our next problem, I realized, would be getting her up. I knew that I couldn’t lift her by myself. I knew, too, that even with Patty’s help, we couldn’t bring her to her feet.
I looked around us. Several passerbys were watching us. One of these was a tall young man with black hair and a trim beard. Much bigger than I was. He was coming with an expression of concern and compassion on his youthful features. I hailed him. Could he help me? Could he help me get Martha up. He nodded. “I’ll try.”
We let her sit a bit longer. Then, she said she was ready to try. He got on one side, I got on the other, we struggled. Between Martha’s own efforts, his, and mine...she was on her feet.
The young man joked with Martha...trying to make her feel better about the fall. He had the voice of a theater major. Or, at least, someone who had some training in that direction. “That was amazing,” he said, meaning the fall. “It was like...performance art.” She laughed. We all did. Or, at least, I tried too.
Another young man appeared. He was wearing a fireman’s uniform...and a yamaka. Well. Why not? Firemen can be observant. He wanted to know if he could help? Should he call the EMTs? No, Martha ruled that out. I said, but, if you could help us get her to our car...that would be great. I figured if anyone should know about lifting someone, it would be a fireman.
He agreed. Patty went to get the car. We said thank you, thank you, thank you to the other man...the one who helped get her up. He wished us well, and went his way. I hope he knew that he had done something wonderful.
Patty reappeared a few moments later in the car. The young fireman and I got Martha into the front passenger’s seat. We thanked the fireman, too. Last I saw of him, he was on a phone or walkie-talkie or something, relaying details of the incident to someone somewhere. And then, I went into the back seat and Patty pulled out into traffic.
Once there...I vaguely realized just how close we had come to disaster.
Also, I discovered that, now...now that we were on our way...and I knew she was safe.
I had begun to shake. Uncontrollably.
Such is the wonder of terror and adrenaline.
More to come.
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