It's very dark now, and watery puddles zip by in the night, reflecting what they can. Northbound on Aurora, heading home, and here's a biker outside marvelling aloud to a pedestrian- "three in a row!"
They're watching us pass by, us three- actually, four- 358s, leapfrogging our way up Aurora. I'm one of the guys in the back, alternating between second and third coach in line as we all drop off passengers. The 358 runs every 6 minutes during peak-period, peak-direction rush hour, and such bunch-ups are inevitable. Incredibly, people still run for the bus, operating on a logic that is beyond me, even though the next bus is either visible or around the corner.
This typically causes the bus in the lead to overflow, and the one at the head of this line is doubtless packed, but inside my bus, the atmosphere is different. It isn't a busy commute for these guys. It's the morning after Christmas. Four, maybe five passengers in here, and we're sprawled out, plenty of room for everyone. It's peaceful. On the 358! What is this strange twilight zone? I don't feel any urge to drive fast tonight- just a gut feeling. I take it an expedient but leisurely pace, perhaps in keeping with the post-holiday atmosphere inside the bus. It's too relaxing in here to be stressing and speeding.
Northbound at 120th, where it's pitch black- and pitch wet- a white four-door sedan in the left lane, just ahead of me, swerves in but too late- or too soon... what is that out there?
There's a shape jaywalking across the dark street, a dainty shape with women's boots and wavy hair, and a small puffy jacket- and how is it now, that the shape is spinning up into the dark air, the white sedan slamming on its brakes just a second too late, the white bumper smashing into her knees and catapulting her into a somersault, her big purse bag upside down too, slow motion as everything spills out- lighters, makeup, coins, pencils falling everywhere, revolving, her hair dangling straight down, beneath her head- she's perfectly upside down for an instant, a reverse of how she stood a moment before- keeps on turning- and then SPLAT as she lands on her back, 270 degrees later.
The car contacted her at a slight angle. It swerved right at the last moment, into my lane, and because of the angle in which it hit her, gave her room to rotate fully before hitting the ground. This in itself is a minor miracle. A head-on frontal hit would have forced her under the car or separated her lower legs from the rest of her body as she contacted the car's hood. The fact that I'm lollygagging up Aurora with a passenger load that would fit in my Chevy Tracker, in no rush whatsoever, is also a minor miracle. Otherwise I'd have hit both the car and the woman. Additionally, that segment of the roadway was, until today, a part of Aurora where I liked to get some speed, because it's a longer distance between zones there (10 blocks rather than the usual 5).
All of that happens inside of one second. I stop the bus with no danger of hitting the body or car, and tell my passengers I'll be right back. I saunter out to the fallen woman. Is she okay? Can I call someone? I want to help. Can I please help? Can she move- yes, she can move. She's already getting up. No, I can't help. Miraculously, she's in perfect shape. "I'm fine I'm fine I'm fine," she tells me. "Thank you." She's shaken, but she's fine fine fine, and she doesn't need any help, and she especially doesn't need me to call anyone for help. She grabs a couple of things, tosses her hair just so, and walks into the dark night. She isn't even limping.
The driver in the car stops having a heart attack, and speeds off like there's no tomorrow. A few of my passengers glance around, confused, and return to their books (yes, one of them was reading a real paperback book!). I get the bus moving again, and a minute later there's no indication anything even took place. Just a second too late or a few degrees different, and lives would've crumbled and shifted irreparably; but it's a secret now, and a fortuitous one. The only evidence is the litter of an abandoned handbag, mascara pencils and lighters scattered across the lanes, memories being flattened out by smoothly flowing Aurora traffic.