It's about 3am, I'm on the Islington bus going home and I hear the familiar skid-crash-glass-breaking of a car accident. Of course everyone on the bus goes to gawk. Now I pride myself on being the kind of person who doesn't get up to ogle every fucking trivial occurrence. Ohhhh someone got pulled over for speeding! Lets all slow to take a look. I hate that. While others were craning their necks I didn't even bother to look up. The bus driver drives on. I know that if there are bodies flung all over the road the bus isn't going to keep going, therefore it's not serious.

Then about 10 seconds later, I hear another much louder crash, this time everyone gets up and is now looking out the front of the bus. The bus stops and everyone starts getting off. Ok now it's serious. I get out and see two badly mangled cars in front of the bus. There's a third undamaged car stopped some distance further up ahead, the driver of which witnessed the accident is screaming "You're a fucking idiot! You're a fucking idiot!" over and over then finally drives away. Still the real seriousness of this situation doesn't really dawn on me. Car accidents happen all the time. It's no big deal. I whip out my cell phone and call 911. I ask for ambulance and police. I look around and see there're about 8 other people who got off the bus doing the exact same thing, so I just hang up. People from the bus are milling about talking about what's going on, apparently the Idiot had a minor fender bender with vehicle (which I now notice to the rear of the bus, it has only minor damage) then sped away and REALLY smashed a second vehicle (second crash and mangled wreckage)..

"He's trapped in there!" I hear someone yell. I notice three Strong Men trying to pry one of the smashed car's door open. I go closer to investigate. There's an Old Man sitting in the driver's seat slumped over sideways onto the passenger seat. He's about 65 has white hair eyes are fluttering wildly and he's convulsing a bit. "Guy's paralysed for life now" someone says to the Idiot. The Idiot. I see him for the first time and know it's him because he's stone drunk, and there's a Man In A Suit keeping a real close eye on him, making sure he doesn't go anywhere. The Idiot fits the actuarial tables perfectly, he's young, and male, and was driving a flash car. Of course he's uninjured. He's not talking at all but what could he say really?

The Strong Men finally pry open the door, but the 911 operator has instructed them not to touch the man. Gasoline runs down the street into a sewer grate. Sirens. Finally.
A police car comes up the wrong side of the road. One man runs toward the police car waving his arms frantically and shouting "Hey! Hey! Hey!" to flag the police car down. It's is obvious that the cops are not going to just keep on driving past the mangled wreckage of two cars in the middle of a major road, but I guess Frantic Man felt he had to do something to help the Old Man. "I see it, I see it" the cop yells to Frantic Man, in an annoyed-with-stupid-civilians voice. Frantic man quiets down, his job is done. An ambulance arrives next, then fire department, then more police. The Idiot is put in the back of a police car and The Man In A Suit gives a statement to police. Other police question the man in the first slightly damaged car who was hit. Ambulance attendants tend to the unconscious Old Man. His eyes still flutter. Fire fighters put down sawdust to soak up the gas.

The Authorities have taken charge.

I go back to the trapped bus and get a transfer. The driver tells me and my fellow passengers to wait on the street just north of the accident scene and another bus will be along shortly. As we all walk past the scene one final the Annoyed Officer says "ok who here is a witness?" No one responds. "So your all just here being nosy?" he says disgusted. We walk on.

The replacement bus comes and I get on along with all the other people who were on the first bus. Mute Witnesses. Partners in crime. As our bus takes us away from the scene we do not talk amongst ourselves. Our communion was not of that kind. A few minutes later an ambulance with sirens blaring races past us towards the hospital. We do not look. Good luck Old Man, I hope you make it.
What a fucking idiot.

You don’t know. You weren’t inside it; you never saw it as it truly was.

How could you know?

You watched from the outside and saw only the sweet old man that you could scarcely understand, who laughed at your jokes and gave you your medicine; who replied in stilted English and never stopped smiling. You saw the laughter-lines but never imagined the holes around the eyes sinking deeper and deeper beneath diabetes-skin and the cancer in the system down below.

You couldn’t know. You could never know because you weren’t in it. You saw only the inseparable couple, but never the ways that they had nowhere else to go, and so you smiled and thought it cute: “they were so close!!!”

Isn’t it a shame?

You came for yourself, and she came for her, but neither of you took anything at all.

You don’t know.

You don’t know that this is how it really was: that he was a dear old man. Dear, dear in so many ways. And they were a dear, old comfortable couple, who took on their roles because they had to. He got quieter and quieter every time he came through the door because all of his words had been sucked out through his finger and she ran the show and ran his life and he just sat there. Sat there behind the counter in the corner store, smiling at passers-by and laughing at your jokes.

He wasn’t even a real person sometimes, just a shadow in the corner with the other cobwebs, a ghost still waiting to die and smiling.

When you aren’t in the world it can be beautiful, sometimes.

But you wouldn’t know.

You wouldn’t know that this is how it really is: that he didn’t deserve to die that way. Ambulances that didn’t come because no one called and blood in an old man’s vomit, collapsed on the sidewalk in the middle of the night beside his most useless son’s brand new car.

This is how it really was, when you say thank god he didn’t suffer without asking.

I bite my tongue.

You don’t want to know.

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