Nothing Is Simple

I saw him on my way to work.  I was stopped at the stop sign where Old Bardstown Road merges with Bardstown Road, right past Hikes Lane.   You know where I’m talking about?

Anyhow.  He was down on one knee on the sidewalk, bent over, one hand over his ear.  He had a buzz haircut.  I couldn’t see his face.

I was sitting in traffic, waiting, so I watched to see if he’d get back up.  Instead, he swayed a little, it looked like he was rocking back and forth.

Not an old guy, at least he didn’t look old.  I couldn’t really tell.

I almost drove on.  I thought about it.  I started to.

But I really couldn’t.

So I pulled over, out of the line of traffic, put on my flashers.  Got out of the car.  Walked slowly toward him.

Slowly, because you never know, he could be ~ I don’t know, he could be drunk.   On drugs.  Not that I haven’t been around people who were drunk or doing drugs before, but you know, he could be dangerous, right?

So I get not-too-close to him, and I call over to him,  “Excuse me.”

He doesn’t  look up, he just keeps sort of swaying a little bit, crouched down on one knee, holding onto his head.

“Excuse me,” a little bit louder.

And again, just a bit louder, “Hey.  Are you ok??”  Stepping a bit closer, but not too close.

He shakes his head then, shaking it like he’s trying to clear it.  I think he says, “Yeah.”  But clearly, he isn’t ok.

“You don’t look like you’re ok,” I say.  “Is there someone I can call for you?”

“No.”  That is firm.  And he starts to stand up, but he sways, even as he’s saying, “I’m ok,” he sways and goes down again.


I start to move forward, but then I don’t, I’m already kind of close, close enough, and he’s back in his crouch, and I’m not a nurse or a doctor  and I don’t know what’s wrong with him.

Yeah, he could be drunk.  He looks like he’s wearing – well, blue pants like uniform pants, and a white polo shirt.  Backpack on his back, but he looks too old for high school.  I don’t know.  College maybe?  It’s a small backpack.  Not a travelers bag.

I don’t know what to do.  I’m standing there, and I just don’t know what to do.

Maybe I should trust him, he says he’s ok, maybe anything I do will just make it worse.  What if he’s had a seizure or something?  Sometimes, when people have seizures often, they really don’t want you to call an ambulance, cause they just go to the ER, where the doctors tell them  that they had a seizure, and they already know that.  Then the person gets a big bill, for something that they really didn’t need.

But then I don’t even know if that’s right, maybe you’re always supposed to go to the hospital for a seizure.  Not that I know it was a seizure, it could be something completely different.

I feel like I’m trapped in a bad novel ~ it’s his novel, he’s the main character, I’m just the woman who appears in this scene, and whatever I do is going to be ignorant and not helpful.

If I don’t call an ambulance, he really needs one, if I do call an ambulance, he doesn’t need it and gets a big bill.

About this time, which really is only a minute, maybe two, I hear a voice behind me.  A man has stopped.  He’s wearing a shirt advertising some kind of Recovery facility, and for a second I have this bizarre thought that the guy on the sidewalk has escaped from the facility, and they’ve sent someone to bring him back.

But no.  That’s apparently not the case.

The man in the t-shirt stays at an even safer distance away than I am.  He asks me “what’s wrong with him?” and I answer, except all I can really say is, “I don’t know.”  But I say that he couldn’t stand on his own when he tried to, and he ~ the rescuer guy ~ says, “I’m calling an ambulance.”

I’m relieved, and tell him yes, I think we need to.

But while he’s on the phone with 911, the guy on the sidewalk makes it to his feet.   He can barely stand, he kind of reminds me of Bambi, in the movie, when the little deer gets to his feet for the first time.

The guy starts walking away, and the man who’s talking to 911 says into the phone, “No, never mind, no, he’s walking away.  Yes, he was on the ground, but he’s walking away now.”

He is, in his blue pants with the backpack on his back, he’s picking up speed as he goes, still a little unsteady.  We watch him go for a minute.

Then I shrug, jump back in my car, turn off the flashers, and make my way back into the flow of traffic.  I have places to go, people to see.

Such a brief, random connection.  I wonder what he really needed.  Did we make things worse in some way ~ would it have been better if we’d left him alone?  Did he need more than he got?

I can make up a bunch of different endings for his story, probably none of them close to the truth.  I wonder about him, and I’ll never know.  But I can still see him, heading down the sidewalk, off to whatever happens next.

About Fausta

Trauma sensitive Consultant and Coach for Compassionate professionals who experience second hand trauma and are at risk of burnout so they can keep doing the work that matters to them and to the world.

Posted on September 13, 2012, in Random stuff that happens and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. wow. What a hard place to be in. To help and make it worse? To not help when it’s really needed? I think you made the best call for you. You tried…you reached out. It didn’t play out the way it does in stories…but as you said….it is HIS story, and you were a part of it.

    FWIW…I’m really proud of you for stopping.




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