I cut along between some apartment buildings, briefly noticing an angular, skinny guy on the far side of the building before the building comes between us. I keep walking.
Grey sky. Michigan winter. I pull my jacket zipper up snug against the cold.
I hear sounds, louder and louder as I come to the end of the building. As I come abreast of it, I hear it full and big and hurting. I turn my head to the right looking toward the terrible sobs I am hearing.
There she sits, as if she simply fell there, humped over, heaving her sobs on the snow-covered grass. Her hair, a flaming dark pink, waves with her painful breaths. She wails oblivious to me, to anything.
I begin to approach her, but just then, a car comes careening around the corner and up the street. It flies right up in front me, in front of the girl, and roars to a stop. The passenger side door opens and a young woman jumps out. She rushes toward the sobbing figure on the ground.
“We saw. Are you alright?” the woman anxiously asks as she strides purposefully ahead.
The sobs turn into chokes, as the pink-haired girl looks up, clearly fearful.
The woman immediately stops and puts her hands out.
“It’s okay. Are you alright?” she asks, a little softer this time.
Despite her brash hair, the girl on the ground looks like a fawn, tender and young and vulnerable. She cannot hold back her sobs. Clearly frightened of the newcomer, she scrambles to her feet with difficulty, almost falling.
“I’m okay,” the fawn asserts.
She has no pants on. Her legs are entirely bare where she has been sitting akimbo in the snow. They are bleeding. She has no jacket on, just a long, thin shirt.
“You don’t look okay,” the woman challenges, taking a tentative step forward.
But the fawn sees the approach, and she backs up, looking a little wild.
“I’m alright,” she is breathless with sobs.
“Your legs are bleeding.”
“I’m alright. It’s just he pushed me down the stairs. I’m alright.” The fawn steps backward, and looks fearfully at her approacher.
The woman stops in her tracks, and turns toward me, as if to defuse the situation. As she steps close to me, she says under her breath, “We’re calling the cops.” She jerks her head slightly back towards the car, where I see a man at the wheel with his phone to his ear.
The fawn turns and begins to flee in earnest. She runs, half-stumbling, back through the complex with her bleeding legs and surging sobs.
The man jumps out of the car and we all keep our eyes on the fleeing girl.
We step down the street, tracking where she goes. The man relays the information to the dispatcher on the phone, as we note her location. Eventually, the man and the woman jump back in their car and make a distanced pursuit.
The fawn makes her way through the buildings, the parking lot, heads across the street, stumbles down a side street. I can see her progress, and I can see the fear in her. She continues to look wildly back.
The police pull up and talk to the man and woman in the car, then they go the long way around to approach the fleeing woman from another direction. And they do.
The man and the woman pull up and tell me thank you, but I tell them the thanks are due them. Indeed, I am deeply impressed by their caring.
I continue on my walk, sad and shaken. I look back at the police car, and it doesn’t make me feel any better.
I wish, I wish…. what. I wish we could have put our arms around her. I wish we could have held her in her tears. I wish we could have heard her story. I wish we could have found a way to help her, and a way to help the sorry male that pushed her down the stairs.
And I’m not at all convinced that help is on the way.
Later that day, just as darkness descends, I am driving down a quiet street. I get to an intersection. On the far side of the intersection, two people are standing in the middle of the road. A large man and a small woman are angrily screaming at each other, close in to each other’s face. They punctuate themselves with hard, intense gestures. Hands open, hand close, hands point.
My headlights are trained on them, and they are heedless.
I wait. I wonder. I just don’t know.
The man take several steps back and turns without leaving. They stand angrily in my headlights.
I finally turn and drive away.
I wish, I wish. I just don’t know.