It happened again. It’s a funny world, whenever you think you’re late, you’re really just in time for something else.
It was my granddaughter’s birthday and I was driving to my mother’s house to celebrate and light some candles with my family.
And there was a ton of traffic that day driving to Jones Beach. It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining brightly, the sky was a clear and cloudless. Merrick Road is a four-lane highway–two lanes East, two West. I had the windows down, and the radio was playing as I sang along.
I was marveling at the color of the sky when I suddenly saw what seemed to be a brown paper shopping bag flying across the sky, but I noticed something strange. It didn’t tumble or fly lightly enough, it seemed to have direction, to be making an arch. A seagull? I wondered. But no, I told myself, there are no khaki brown seagulls–none that I’ve seen anyway. I was pondering, squinting, trying to make sense out what I was seeing, when suddenly it took a nosedive and landed right on the black pavement road in front of my car–sprawled flat across the yellow line.
It was then I saw the bicycle. I had to force myself to think rationally. Paper bags and seagulls don’t ride bicycles, I thought. Bright, I am.
I stomped on the brake and stopped the car a few feet away from what I could now identify as a middle aged man wearing a khaki shirt and black trousers and jumped out of the car. There was a pool of blood on the pavement beneath his head.
I kneeled down next to him and quickly grabbed his wrist to feel his pulse. Nice, strong, regular. Okay, it wasn’t his heart. I leaned down and put my ear on his chest to make sure. Nice, strong, regular beat. Okay. But he was out cold, unconscious. Several people began mulling around, and I heard someone shout “Call 911.”
The bicycle seemed to disappear. A few people hovered near, one girl held his other hand. “He’s okay,” I said to them. “I’m a nurse.”
Blood was everywhere. I quickly reached inside my pocket to see if I had something to wipe his face, nothing. I looked down quickly at my tee shirt. I could undress in the middle of the highway but my red shirt was pigment dyed, I was afraid it could infect him. I called for help.
“Any of you have a handkerchief?” I asked around. That’s when I turned saw something amazing. Six mini vans had made a half circle to keep the traffic going east from hitting us, and behind us, several other cars stopped the traffic going west. A circle of Angels.
Then, a man came forward holding out his handkerchief. I smiled and thanked him as I took it. When I wiped off the still unconscious man’s face, I found the source of his bleeding. He had been wearing glasses which had cut deeply through his right eyebrow making a deep gash, down to the bone. I held the handkerchief with enough pressure to try to stop the bleeding.
“Maybe he has a seizure disorder,” I said aloud. He was still unconscious. Then a young man came to kneel next to me. He held out a box of latex gloves and said gently, “I’m an Emergency Medical Technician. You really should put these on.”
In that moment, they looked as foreign as the paper bag that only minutes before had been flying through the air. I looked down at my hands. They were covered with blood. I smiled and thanked him but refused.
“Sorry,” I said. “But I think it’s a little late. I’m already a mess..” He stood up and nodded.
Suddenly, the man on the pavement began to struggle, began to try to pull my hand away from his forehead, began to kick.
“Grab him,” someone shouted. “So he doesn’t hurt himself.”
“It’s okay,” I said. “He’ll be okay. He’s just coming to.” After a few minutes, he opened his eyes. “You’re okay,” I said to him. “You’ll be fine.”
“I want to sit up,” he said, hoarsely.
“If you can, do,” I said. “but I can’t help you just in case you have a back injury.”
He sat up easily. “What happened?” he asked.
“Do you have a seizure disorder?” I asked.
“I didn’t,” he said. “I don’t think.”
“You were riding a bike…” I said.
“I was?” he said. “Whose bike?”
“Don’t have a clue..” I said. “But I’m sure it will all come back to you in time.”
“What’s your name?” I asked.
“Fred,” he said.
“Hi,” I said, smiling a reassurance. “I’m Carol.”
It was then I heard the sirens and saw the bright red rescue truck and ambulance. Several police women and men circled us, on walkie talkies. I looked around. Everything seemed to be moving in slow motion.
A policewoman came over to me. “I’d better get you something to wash your hands,” she said. I noticed she was holding her walkie-talkie in hands wearing latex gloves.
“I’m okay,” I said. “I’ll wash when I get home.” I looked at my watch. Jeez, I thought, I am so late. “I have to go,” I told her.
“What’s your name?” she asked.
“Carol,” I said. “Now, can you move those vans so I can get through? I’m late for a birthday party.”
She smiled. “Sure,” she said, as I hopped back into my car to drive away. Another policeman shouted after me, “Thanks, Carol.”
On the drive home, I wondered why that man looked like a paper bag flying through the air…what was going on with me? It all seemed so surreal, and at the same time, just as it was meant to be. And then I remembered how all those vans and cars circled us to keep us safe. I thought, How bad can the world be? I mean, this is New York an nobody even ran over us.
Outside my mother’s house, I parked and ran inside. My daughter was standing in the living room. She was the first one I saw. “Is that your blood on your hands, Mom?” she asked, calmly. She was obviously used to me.
“Nope,” I said. “It belonged to a man who was flying through the air like a paper bag and fell on the pavement in front of my car.”
“Well, you better go wash off and disinfect them,” she said.
One of my granddaughter’s asked, “Did he die?”
“Nope,” I said, walking toward the bathroom. “I think he’s okay.”
My son was sitting on the couch, eating, buffet style. “Remind me to stay off the roads whenever you’re planning to go out,” he said, smiling. “Didn’t that happen to you last month?”
“Something like it,” I said laughing. “But give me a break, all I did was find him,” I said.
Another of my granddaughters said, “Tell us the story?”
But my mother, who had watched without saying a word from the time I walked in the door, just said, “Carol, you can talk later. Finish washing your hands. It’s time to eat. The maccaroni’s getting cold.”
That night I called the hospital, and asked about Fred. But the only information the Nursing Supervisor could give me was that he was in the Intensive Care Unit and his condition was critical.
When I called the following day, his condition was unchanged.
But by the third day, he was doing much better. He had been moved out of the Unit and was in a room on one of the surgical floors.
The following morning when I called, they told me Fred had gone home.
It was then I figured there must be some kind of volunteer group like our firefighters that never needs to hear a siren, always is just there when they are needed. Of course, then I understood none of us ever has to be afraid, because as we are there for others, others will be there for us when we need them. Just like a group of Volunteer Cosmic Healers! Nice.