You're a good citizen.
You hold the elevator while you manage to confirm an appointment for Jamie at the pediatrician's office tomorrow morning. You snap your breifcase shut and auto-dial your receptionist, reminding her that you're on your way to your 2 o'clock, and should be back by 3; you'll return messages when you get back.
You take the stairs as an afterthought; you're a healthy citizen, too. Or, at least, you try to be. But if it doesn't fit into your daily routine, you recognize it as a lost cause before you even start.
A black woman in an ill-fitting coat nearly runs into you as you leave the front lobby. Her head is down, and when you hold the door for her, she glares. You think feminism has gone too far.
You straighten your hair with one hand, and hail a cab with another, pinching your breifcase betwen your elbow and a blazer pocket. One passes, the driver deliberately denying you the privilege of eye contact, and without getting worked up, you decide to walk. You have, after all, 45 minutes to make it to Mr. Horne's office to plan the next exhibit.
Click-clacking your way down Fifth, you smile at whoever happens to meet your gaze, even though your jaw tightens a bit when a scraggly man with broken teeth smiles and stares just a little too long, just a little too intently. His skin looks like newspaper, and when you start to think you can read your name in a missing person's ad somewhere in the folds of his neck, you avert your eyes.
The next block is packed with lunch-hour window shoppers, so you detour up a block, past the little espresso shop that always plays such beautiful arias. You smile, and look for the girl with the red hair, serving cheap coffee to the art students for no tips and sneers, but it must be her day off.
The front of the old library has obfuscated by great billowing tarps of orange and blue, in a framework of rebar. It takes you longer to snake your way through the chaos of hard-hats and lunch traffic, and as you slow to check your watch, your cellphone rings again. Using your teeth to work the antennae up, you lean to one side as you wedge it between your ear and your shoulder.
Something hits you, hard, on the right side of your neck, and you drop your phone. You start to bend after it, but you feel suspended from the ground, like your clothes have been nailed to a wall behind you. You gasp, frown, and reach your hands to your face. A croak escapes your throat and for some reason, that small sound snatches a dark man passing from his own walk. His eyes scan you and go wide. He drops his own breifcase.
"Oh god," he whispers, and reaches his hands toward your neck. You flinch, darting your eyes about for someone to see, to help, as you start to raise your own palms in defence. But it's like the nerves have been cut. You know they feel cold and distant, like when you fall asleep on them, and they feel so drastically different from the heat that is growning around your neck and chest.
Hard hats come bobbing, and for a moment, you think that they must look like wild poppies moving in the breeze from the patios across the street. There is shouting, and all of a sudden they're all crowding you, looking into your eyes.
"Hey? Hey! Can you see me? Can you speak?" A burly man with a blue hard hat and a tool belt peers into your face, his hands hovering but not touching your shoulders. You're not sure what's wrong, but you know you want to sit. You want the feeling back in your arms, and the aching in your abdomen to go away. You open your mouth again, and whisper "sit".
"I, uh, Jesus, I don't think you can," the blue hard hat sways gentle side to side, telling you 'no'. You can hear ambulances, and you think, this is too much. You don't need a doctor. You just need a sit-down. Some water, maybe.
There's a crowd around you, and suddenly you feel guilty, having spent most of your life forcing yourself to look them all in the eye and smile every day, thinking that was the only way they'd share anything with you, least of all, concern.
You feel your muscles begin to twitch as you think you're putting your hands up against their concerns, when a medic jumps out of an ambulance and pales at the sight of you. He turns to his partner who's followed close behind; "We can't move this one. We can't even lay 'er down."
You frown, and will him to look back at you. You have a NAME. You have a voice, even though it's failing you. You want him to look at YOU. His partner - older, a mind-reader - pushes people back and looks you in the eye. He's not afraid to touch you. "Ma'am, listen to me. A peice of rebar fell from one of the upper stories, and it's lodged itself next to your neck. It's a little over three feet long, I'm told, so the other end is somewhere..." his gaze breaks from yours and follows the contours of the left side of your frozen body, and as he reaches out his hand, he signals a 'may I?' and you somehow agree, "Somewhere here," he says, gingerly pressing against where you've always envisioned ovaries would be.
The look of calm on his face wavers, and you know he can feel this metal bar through your loose flesh, but you can feel nothing. By now, strangers have come to your sides and are trying to prop you up without hurting you, but no one seems to notice that you still feel nothing.
"There's nothing we can do. The only thing keeping you alive is the pressure of the bar. What do you want us to do? Can we call someone?" Still somewhat upright on the streets of the city where you work, you look at these shocked and eager faces. This is not a bad way to die, you know this, but you don't want anyone else to see it. You're worried about Jamie.
A bystander has rifled through your breifcase and come up with a picture of Jamie at age four, at his birthday. "He'll be okay," they say, holding his picture up for you to see. Your brother has Jamie suspended by his ankles in a party hat with his fiance at his side, and the stranger laughs nervously and says, "there's a lot of love left for him," which breaks your heart.
Suddenly you're so very grateful that they're all strangers. There isn't a person in your life that would have known what to say, or what to do. All there is left is a way to find a way to say 'thank you' before you close your eyes.