One cold day around Christmas, visiting my family upstate, I was leaving a supermarket and had just reached the car when I turned my head and saw an elderly couple. The man was putting groceries in the trunk of his car. The woman was laying face-first on the pavement, not moving. The man turned, saw this, and started screaming.
“Help! Help! Please, somebody! Help!”
A group of people rushed over. I reached the woman first. She was so small, that doll-like frame you only see on the very young and very old. I wondered whether moving her was a bad idea; you always hear you’re not supposed to move people who are hurt. But it was freezing and she was seventysomething, laying facedown on pavement. It seemed a cruelty not to at least turn her over so she could see and speak.
She was balsa-soft, like flipping a feather. The sea green-blue of her eyes popped against the overcast sky. She looked very surprised and looked like she was chewing. There was blood pooling in the inside corner of her eye and a large cut from her cheek up to her temple; later, when the EMTs lifted her up for the ambulance, we could all see the gruesome damage to the back of her skull. Much worse than I’d imagined.
One woman held her hand and prayed the whole time till the EMTs arrived. It was raining. A supermarket manager walkie-talkied inside, asking for an umbrella to be brought out. He held it over her.
“I don’t suppose I’ll drown,” she said.