Out East

The bicycle picked up speed so I could free-wheel with the wind blowing, as it should, through my hair. The sun shone a little and I was humming a tune to which the plastic bag, hanging from the handlebars and packed with supermarket goods, appeared to swing in perfect rhythm. A car, a large Audi, sped by on the other side of the road. I felt it slowing down behind me, it must have been the sound of the air, and from the corner of my eye I must have noticed the pale pink out of place so near to the pavement. I pulled the brakes, dropped a foot to the kerb, and looked over my shoulder. I was slow to focus. I heard the car brakes and began to notice a face resting in the grit of a shallow pot hole. I dropped my bike to the tarmac and made sure the shopping was balanced upright before approaching this delicate body slumped perfectly into the hole. Her anorak was what I thought of as skin-coloured although skin is rarely pale pink like that. Soft brown hair that she must have dyed, I thought, as I looked at the wrinkles in her face and the style of her two handbags poking out from beneath her fallen body. Everybody dyes their hair, I thought. And then I asked her what had happened and if she was hurt. My knee, she said softly, my knee is in pain. I asked if she could feel her toes. Yes, she said, yes I can feel everything but my knee hurts. She began to tremble. The hand by her face, clutching at the handles of her handbags, steadily perpetuated into a juddering movement that seemed to ripple out to her shoulders and hips and to her face. She saw me staring at her arms. I have Parkinsons, she said. The medication is in the bags. And then there were three of us all bent over her body. She has Parkinsons, I told the couple from the car. That’s why she’s shaking. She has medication in her bag. I spoke to them as if they were ambulancemen. They nodded but said nothing. So I continued questioning the soft pale head on the floor. She lived between two churches half a mile away. Once she was home she would be fine, she said. She could call friends, she said. The couple said they’d drive her home. We picked her up but she was so light we nearly threw her into the air. We all laughed nervously. The couple took over somewhere between the pot hole and the open car door. A cigarette and a lighter lay on the floor in front of the passenger seat. The doors slammed and the man, the driver as he was, revved the engine impatiently before veering out into the road and continuing down the hill. I waited until I could not hear their engine any longer, until my ears had readjusted to the breeze.

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