Hearing someone run up behind you is never good. Even at lunchtime. Even when you’re walking through a park in the sunshine. Even at lunchtime when you’re walking through a park in the sunshine and you are literally listening to a podcast about happiness.
In this instance, the danger is low but the annoyance is high: A small girl, maybe 6 or 7, is running laps and using me as her marker. She gets to me, curves a tight arc in front, then doubles back. Thirty seconds later she’s there again. And again. And again. Stop that, I think. Is no one going to tell her to stop that? Before she can get back to me I start up some steps and she must think better of following. Stupid kid.
Later, as I pass the Arts Centre, a young girl is running round and round a sun umbrella shrieking in delight. At nearby tables people are trying to relax through the noise; a beer and scream-track in the afternoon sun. Suddenly it stops. I look. She’s on the ground. Her mother runs to her. She gets up. The strange silence of shock. Then, she cries. I look away. Silly kid.
Daylight Savings has come and gone and the sun is setting as I walk home from work. Tiny pink clouds line the sky, bathing the buildings in rosy glow. I stop looking where I’m going. I realise this could be the last week of warm evenings, the last week I walk home without a jacket.
But you must never break concentration.
The concrete pavement balloons under my feet and I’m at a forty-five degree angle. Of course it’s a busy intersection, of course there’s a line of traffic, of course there are people everywhere. I have time to think about the girl running laps, about the girl by the sun umbrella. Then my body kicks in: leg and arms fly out to counterbalance, my bag slips off my shoulder, I land heavy on my right foot. My left foot starts raising from the heel, reaches tipping point, stops, lowers. I’m upright.
Left foot. Right foot. Don’t look back. Don’t look around you. Just look down. Just keep going. For god’s sake nobody ask me if I’m ok.
Before I know it I’m at the top of the hill. What did I trip over? Why does my wrist hurt? Is this what karma feels like? No harm, just my dignity. At the traffic lights I stare moodily at the pavement, the perpetrator. No one look at me. No one talk to me. I’ve got nothing to say to anybody.
The strange silence of shock.
But I am a grown up. And grown ups don’t cry.
A version of this post was sent by email on the 8th April 2017 as part of Internet Care Package.
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