You know how you can suddenly be aware of a lot of simultaneous things in a flash? Today that happened to me as I was approaching the intersection of 12th Street and Camelback.
Suddenly my attention was drawn to an unsettling movement. I saw a man leave his car in the middle of the left-turn lane and run across busy mid-day traffic with a cell phone to his ear. I saw a delivery truck stopped partly blocking South-bound traffic, and then the blue SUV stopped in front of it. Neither vehicle had a driver. I saw other people across the street looking intently in the direction the running man had been going, and out of the corner of my eye I knew other people were pulling their cars over and getting out.
Then I saw her; a woman with a blonde pony-tail and blue shorts lying in an awkward position on the grass in front of Coulter Cadillac. People were gathering around her, their faces (even shielded by sunglasses) full of alertness you don't usually see in this kind of full-sun heat - but no one was touching her. I saw a big gulp type cup lying about a yard away from her. I remember being annoyed with myself that I also noticed the color of the straw sticking out of the cup - it was red. And thankfully, I saw her arm move before she was past my field of vision.
A couple days ago I had a nightmare. I saw Asia and some other people standing at a corner, waiting for the light to turn. Instantly, I knew she was going to step out into the street and a car was going to hit her. In my dream, I could feel my stomach start to twist. I tried to shout, but no sound came out. Then I saw the car.
It was waiting to pull into traffic from a parallel parking spot much too close to the corner. It didn't make any sense. Asia had the green light now, and as she stepped into the crosswalk with other pedestrians, I lunged into the road yelling a muted "Oh NO!" The car moved forward so insanely slow it was ridiculous. Asia stopped in her tracks as if looking up the street the way people scan the horizon for the bus, totally oblivious to the car grill closing in on her. I watched her body fall wordlessly backward onto the pavement. The car continued forward until the left front tire stopped over the middle of her right thigh. I ran to her screaming the whole way. I tried to lift the car up and off of her leg. Other people tried to help; shouting directions, making sure the driver didn't put it into gear, calling 911 on their phones. All the commotion took on a luridly brilliant, moving color scheme, creating a sort of psychedelic *'Little Black Sambo' effect swirling around and around the accident scene. Panicked, all I could do was pull on the bumper with all my might.
I remember thinking, 'this is my dream, I ought to be able to do whatever I want in my own dream!' - but still I was denied the superhuman strength required.
I awoke with a silent scream in my chest as I jolted upright covered in a terrified sweat. For a horrible second I thought it was real and I needed to run for help - until my mind began to grasp the reality that I was in my own bedroom with the green floral bedspread and the gently clacking vertical blinds at the window. Asia was at her new job. She was not the victim of a gruesome double-jeopardy irony. None of it was real. She was safe. She was safe.
A few minutes after seeing the woman on the grass, I was in the car again on my way to Phoenix College to pick up Asia. To avoid directly retracing my route, I took 7th Avenue. The radio announced traffic conditions across the valley, and last of all posted a warning about an accident at 12th Street and Camelback.
I said another silent prayer.
*"Little Black Sambo" by Scottswoman Helen Bannerman first published in 1899 is about a little (Indian) boy who escapes being eaten by tigers when they chase each other around a palm tree so fast they turn into butter. This was a beloved children's story for decades until controversy about the conflicted racial representation relegated it to banned status around the world. Multiple attempts to re-write it in a more politically correct format include "Little Brown Sanje".
The 1953 edition is the one I grew up adoring because of the beautiful illustrations, especially the crimson-toed crimson-lined shoes he bought at the bazaar. The conclusion of the story ends in a feast of homemade pancakes topped with the miracle tiger-butter that would thrill any kid with half a brain regardless of what color or culture they came from. The controversy continues today as Black, green or White academics alternately laud or demonize this classic.
For a peek at some of the illustrations:
For the full text:
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