On my way home early yesterday, I found my tick-tock mental state interrupted by the sight of a man on the ground. A normal day’s endless visual stream includes people on the ground–the woman who sleeps on the step outside the convenience store at 6th and H (often covered in a large black garbage bag or tarp), the bearded man who sits with his legs almost across the entire sidewalk in what seems like the hottest spot in the city around 4pm (is it wrong to have less sympathy for white, male homeless individuals who panhandle next to shaded spots?)–but this was a break from the norm, a glitch in the system.
I came running down the escalator stairs, watching the blinking lights along the platform that meant the train was either just arriving or just leaving. As soon as I realized it was just leaving, I slowed my pace and noticed 20 yards ahead a tall, 30- or 40-yr. old black man lying on his back on the platform, his head raised a few inches off the ground, and his own hand kind of holding it. It looked as if he’d either just woken up or just fallen down. He seemed disoriented. Another man approached him and told him “Just stay down. Stay still. Are you okay?” The other man was just getting off the phone. He had a shocked expression his face like he had seen what happened. A small pool of blood had settled on the patch of stippled platform closest to the rails. When the man took his hand away from his head, I could see streaks of blood coming from just above his right temple (the muted color of blood against his dark skin tone only seemed to increase the slow-motion-surrealness of the moment). “Can I help?” I said, or maybe I said, “You already called 9-1-1?” I can’t remember. “Someone needs to stay with him,” said the good samaritan. “I’ll get the station manager,” I offered and ran back up the escalator. “Does anyone have any paper towels or anything?” asked the man who had adopted this anomaly as his responsibility (or, rather, accepted it as it had been thrust upon him; it was obvious he did not know the injured man whose wound seemed serious, but not life threatening).
The station manager was on the phone. I waited. He was off in less than 15 seconds. “There’s a man down on the green line platform bleeding from the head.” His gruff response: “I know. I’m coming.” He seemed inconvenienced. Nine out of ten Metro station managers do.
I ran back down and let them know the manager was on his way (and, hopefully, some actual medical personnel) and then I hopped on the next train. I couldn’t help wonder what had happened. Had the man fallen and banged his head? Had he been in a fight? Was he pushed? Attacked? None of it made sense and the air had about it the energy of something gone wrong. Something beyond that of a mere accident.
And there I was. Back on the train. As if nothing had happened. The flow of time picking up right where it had left off…