Monday, February 27, 2012

Any Other Day

Take 1

One of those days when you wonder why you should get out of bed in the morning. She opens her eyes, the light is pouring in the window, but it's not a bright day. Looks like it's going to rain, how convenient! She stares at the window, thinking about nothing in particular. All she knows is that she doesn't want to get out of bed.

As she rolls in bed, she imagines her day; she'll get up, take a fast shower and grab a cup of coffee. She'll go through the traffic and the heat and the smog. She'll get to work only to drink her second cup of coffee of the day. She'll sit in front of a screen pressing buttons on her keyboard all day for 8 hours, maybe more. Today, it feels like it's going to be more. Her mother will call her to complain about the prices and her brother. She'll say all the uh-huh's and oh-hoh's, she'll say yes lots of times, and I will lots of times, and the phone calls will pass.

She'll get home, eat leftovers, sit in front of her turned on TV but won't really watch it. She'll try to read but her mind will wander. After browsing through her phone records, there's really no one to call. Friends are busy with their lives, and the rest will just complain about this and that. No phone calls today. She'll just sit there until 12 am, because going to bed any earlier would be just too sad. Finally, bedtime!

She sits up, looks straight ahead and says out loud, "happy birthday to me!"

Take 2

She opened her eyes and instinctively looked at her alarm clock on the bedside table, waiting for a second till her vision cleared and finally saw that it's 6:30 am. She wasn't necessarily fond of waking up early but that's life, you win some you lose some. No light is coming through the window even though she should be seeing the sun shine over the neighborhood right about then, gloomy day, maybe it'd rain. She smiled at the thought, "good omen" she told herself. It's a day that she decided to smile on in all cases, and smile she shall, rain or no rain. She put on the suit she hates so dreadfully. Stupid meeting making her wear the most uncomfortable outfit in the world, with high heels too! She put on black mascara and dark red lipstick, a statement but not a very strong one; she might as well go the whole nine yards. As she went to fix breakfast, her mom kept shouting at her at how messed up her room was, yes even at 28 her mom still tells her to clean her room. She kissed her on the cheek and called her by her pet name with the sunniest smile she could manage. When her mom smiled back she ran for the door and left. The traffic was already piling and the radio was boring, but that's what they made mp3 players for. Today, we rock and roll, she thought and the stones screamed out of her car in the middle of traffic, and she was screaming right along with them! The meeting was a total disaster; the customer was unyielding and her manager was probably looking for ways to pin the blame on her. She stood by the window staring at the street and the cars with a snickers bar. She closed her eyes and thought of how today was special, and today she wasn't letting anything ruin it, faked a smile and then remembered one of those funny things her friend B always says with wide eyed conviction and no hesitation; blah mode of course! She went back to work with a genuine smile. The traffic back was horrible, her planned dinner was cancelled and her feet were killing her, but she got home in the end. She ordered Chinese as planned with a slight detour of eating it at home instead of at a stuffy restaurant. It was already 9 pm, the day was almost over, but it will go out with a bang. The Stones were playing again in her room and dancing to them was the most fun she could ever have, especially that no one was watching, and in a moment of complete satisfaction she took a bite out of her Nutella cupcake; her treat to herself and to hell with the calories, you only live once. At 12 she turned off the music, looked at her phone, saw that the people that mattered still do matter, and smiled, "happy birthday to me"

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Friday, February 24, 2012

I Killed a Man

On Tuesday, October 13th, 2011, I left work around an hour earlier than usual because the project I was working on wasn't ready to be tested and the developers said it would be ready the next day. I left the building, walked to the parking lot where my car was, and got in it and drove home. For some reason, I forgot to call my mom on my way back as I usually do. Perhaps I thought that I'd be home early and she won't have to worry about me if I got stuck in traffic, who knows, who cares.

I drove my car out of the parking lot, there was an option to take the bridge or go under it, both getting me to the same point in the end. I decided to go under it. It may have seemed slower because of all the buses but I remembered seeing the bridge congested from my office window which overlooks it. I kept to my left, traffic was slow; the norm for a 2 lane street with lots of cars. I noticed a man wearing a suit and riding a motorbike and I thought he looked peculiar, he was going to take the bridge but noticed the traffic on it and decided to go under it, my exact same decision. I saw an old man in a galabeya and a turban crossing the street, so I honked to get his attention so that he'd be careful while crossing. I was thinking that there will always be stupid pedestrians crossing the road at the ramp of a bridge where cars usually accelerate to get some momentum, I was referring to him of course, he'd already passed the bridge ramp and was half way in the middle of the street. I remember thanking God that the man in the suit on the motorcycle didn't run him over or get confused and fall off his bike, lucky man. When I honked I did grab the old man's attention, but instead of him slowing down or being more careful while crossing, he started running across the street. He ran into the side of my car and all I could see was a body on the right side of my windshield which had shattered inwards with shards of glass all over the passenger seat, my purse, and the dashboard. Some tiny specs of glass fell on my cloths and my hands but none on my face and none big enough to cause any cuts. The inside of the car turned blue as the light refracted off the million cracks in the windshield. I was braking and honking and his body was on the windshield up until the car finally stopped and he fell off, leaving his turban in the cavity his body created in the glass, and a small blood smear where his head hit it. Was I screaming? I couldn't tell, but I wasn't crying, I was shaking but not a tear came out. I was still honking even after the car stopped, even after the man fell off. I didn't get out of the car. The whole situation was less than 2 minutes long.

I could tell people were gathering around the man who I didn't know was alive or dead but all the sounds were muffled. The man in the suit on the motorcycle as knocking on my passenger window and telling me he saw everything and it wasn't my fault, I had to tell my brain to send a message to my hand to open the passenger window to hear that. All I could say at the time was that I honked and he started running, which I repeated over and over. I go the phone out and called my brother, I screamed at him to come right away because I had an accident and hit a man. He asked where I was but I screamed at him to come right away and hung up.

I don't remember when and how I got out of the car but by the time I got out there were a lot of people gathered around the body in the street, I couldn't even see him. People were coming over to ask me if I was ok and I was thinking are these people crazy? Why are they asking about me instead of the man on the street? The only conclusion I came up with was that he died, you don't have to check if a dead body is ok or not. I think I asked if he was dead, people wouldn't let me see him, and one or two people told me he's not dead and it's not a problem as long as he's not dead. One of them was telling me that he was a lawyer and it's going to be ok.

I think it's important to describe the scene of the accident because the rest of the story depends on it. The street I was in is called emtedad ramsis. It runs under 6th of October Bridge in the area linking between Salah Salem Rd and Autostrad Rd. the car park runs under the bridge between 2 sidewalks. Each sidewalk has a small brick wall on to separate the parking lot from the street, around half a meter in height, with gaps in some places acting as gateways into the lot. I was in the direction headed to Autostrad, right before the ramp that goes up 6th of October Bridge on the right. The continuation of the street itself falls between the parking and that ramp. When I got out f the car, I sat on that wall that separated the parking and the street. A woman around my mother's age was walking down the street, she came after the accident happened but before the ambulance came to take the man away, who was alive, and according to the people there was fighting off the paramedics, not wanting to go to the hospital. The woman stayed with me, told me to take my bag out of the car and to lock the car and sit inside, which I did in a while. A young man in a beard came to me after the ambulance had left and told me that he saw everything, that it wasn't my fault, and if I needed his testimony I should call him, he gave me his number and told me his name was Eng. Abdel Rahman. Another young man in a backpack came to me with a bottle of water and told me to drink, which I refused (politely I hope), then a mechanic from somewhere got me a jug full of water and told me to drink, wouldn't leave unless I did and I took a sip thinking I killed a man and got virus C all in the same day. When the woman asked me what happened I told her that he was coming on the other side of the street and I honked and he ran into the car. She looked at me compassionately the way someone would look at a deluded person because apparently that is what I was since all the people who witnessed the scene were telling each other how they saw the man jump off the wall into the street and on my car!

A policeman showed up out of nowhere and took my licenses and told the sergeant he was with to stay with me, analyze the scene and take me to the station when the patrol car gets here. Then he asked me to drive the car into the parking which I did. When he asked me what happened there were a lot of people telling him what they saw, which was the man jumping off the wall and I didn't even get a chance to say a word, later on that woman told me to not say what I saw because, well It wasn't what happened and I'm just confused. A minute later I really was confused with the only clear memory of the man on the glass.

Somewhere in the middle of all this my sister in law called several times in order to get my exact location which I think by the second or third phone call I was able to explain. I asked the sergeant to wait for my brother as he wanted me to drive my car to the police station, it's evidence. He took some notes that there wasn't a pedestrian crossing in the area, that traffic was congested, and so on with these remarks, asked my age and name and what I did for a living and being very nice through it all. The man in the suit with the motorcycle stayed till my brother got there then went ahead to the station. My brother drove the car with me, the woman, one of the witnesses and the sergeant to the station.

By the time we got there, a woman was already there giving her statement, I had only seen her in the parking lot when i drove the car out of the way, then she told me that what she saw was the man jumping off the wall and falling on my car. The other 2 witnesses were the man in the suit and someone who was sitting in a coffee shop on the second floor of a building and saw the whole thing.

I gave my statement and waited at the station, meanwhile my brother's friends came over, my sister in law and her friends came over after going to the hospital to check up on the man. They weren't able to get to him though because his family where there, beat up the doctor and the information desk took them out the hospital's back door in fear for their safety. The district attorney who was scheduled for the night shift didn't show up and so I had to sign a statement to show up at the DA's office the next morning or else I would spend the night in jail. We called the witnesses after they were already gone to come back in and sign a similar statement, they came and even left their IDs and were instructed to take them back the next morning after the interrogation. At that point in time, the woman who was with me throughout the whole thing was finally persuaded to go home to her daughter. A while later, my mom came over screaming and crying, a total mess, shaking all over after a friend of my brother's picked her up and drove her to the station. By the time she got there I was more composed than earlier. I tried to comfort her by telling her I was alright, but she was concerned about the man in the hospital, crying and expecting the worst. While we were talking, she told me that she was convinced it was my fault and I was talking on the phone when I hit him, and that was when I got angry for the first time and stayed angry for the following months.

We got home, packed and went to sleep over at my brother's house, taking the advice of family friends after they heard about the aggressiveness of the old man's family. The next day we went to the DA's office and gave the statement, the witnesses showed on time and told the DA that had it been them, they wouldn't have been able to evade him as an answer to the question he asked. I stayed home for the next few days and went to work on the following Sunday because to stay home any longer would mean I will have nothing to do but replay that day over and over again in my head and I couldn't take it anymore. On Monday, we learned that the man was taken out of intensive care and the internal bleeding in his brain had stopped, which either meant he was terminal or that he was getting better. That night I broke down while praying, screaming and crying and asking God not to let that man die because of me. the following Friday, my mom told me that he had died on Monday and she didn't tell me because she thought it'd be better for me to take the news on a weekend.

I went to 2 lawyers, both refusing to take any money from me. Within a few weeks, the whole thing was over, the case was dismissed for "non-existence of a crime". The aggressive family members went back to their hometown in upper egypt and it was all over. They even added a speed bump in the exact place of the accident, I had made a dent in the universe as I always wanted after all.

Why am I writing this? Because I don't want to forget the old man that died on my car. I don't want to forget the people who left their families and jobs to come help me and testify to what they saw, and all those others who were concerned about me. I am writing this because the next time I face a difficult situation, I want to remember that I lived through killing a man by accident. I am writing this because I want to prove to myself that I am able to narrate the whole situation without falling apart.

As to why I'm posting this, it's because a few days ago I almost forgot that people who do good for the sake of doing good still exist in the world at the worst times, and because there are friends who supported me all through the ordeal even though I was angry and messed up and probably rude to them but they still cared to ask about me, or ask other people instead because they couldn't face me at the time. I will always remember the help and support of strangers and of friends. I will always remember the man who died and ask God to forgive him and wish him paradise. Finally, I want to remember that on Tuesday October 13th, 2011 I had a car accident and I hit a man, and on Monday October 19th, 2011 that man died.

Life goes on...

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