Monday, February 13, 2006

Look Both Ways Before Crossing the Street

Ahhhh, I can’t believe it’s been a month since I posted! Why do I suck at this??? Anyway, this one I thought I had posted on February 13, but apparently I only saved it as a draft… enjoy, and check back Monday or Tuesday for a new one…

We were on our way to school. Slow Ethiopian instrumental ballads serenaded us from the radio, but it was a more silent drive than usual. Sally and I were both staring out of our windows, lost in our thoughts, our minds racing along with the cars around us. Ironically, I was thinking about driving in Ethiopia, wondering if my mom would get a license when she returned, feeling confident that, after having been driven around for months and observing the way things work, I could even hold my own behind the wheel on the streets of Addis.

We came upon a narrow road that was heavily backed up with traffic. My eyes remained fixed outside of my window, but I wasn’t absorbing anything that I was seeing as we slowly glided forward and stopped, glided forward and stopped, glided forward and stopped our way up the hill.

I don’t know what it was that made me turn my head, Abiy nervously stammering, “shit, shit,” under his breath, or the drawn-out, high-pitched screech that resounded through the air. I turned my head and saw the silver bumper of the old VW bug gleaming menacingly in the early-morning sun, the young woman awkwardly sprawled on the ground beneath it, the wood that she must have been carrying scattered around her, lying like broken bones and broken dreams. And I didn’t know if the screech that I had heard was the squealing of the car tires as the man driving slammed on his brakes, or the scream of the girl as she tried to force her feet to move faster, terror, regret, and anxiety surely burning in both their eyes.

A woman ran up and tried to lift the young lady, but she lay limp and motionless in her arms; her head tilted back on her neck, and slowly rolled back and forth like a door being swung open and shut by a draft of wind; her arms fell slack at her side, and her face was empty, her eyelids gently closed. A trickle of by-standers began to dam up around the girl until the crowd was so thick that she was no longer visible. As we drove on, Abiy told a police officer that was conducting traffic what had happened.

It was a more silent drive than usual. But the dead silence in the little blue taxi was now heavy and inundated with our screaming thoughts. We simply stared out of our windows.

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