Monday, June 22

Three Bouquets of Flowers

I LEARNED IT ON my first cigarette, going down to street level, when my partner said—‘A bird got knocked off her bike outside Bank and killed.’ At first, my reaction had been unsympathetic, not knowing what to say or quite how to react, I took up my position by the railings and lit a cigarette so that I could watch the people rush to their offices. The stillness of an office has the tendency to distil such information when one is not looking; so it was I thought about the death of a cyclist.
And – do you know – I was struck by an unimaginable sadness!
I quickly caught the attention of a colleague and talked to him of something else, just to empty the thoughts from my brain. We joked for all I could, but then I started to see things in my head and to think things I did not want to think. On my next cigarette the traffic in the road was at a standstill. Groups of businessmen exited their cabs, frustrated by the lack of progress. The cabbie leaned out of his window and asked the cars and pedestrians about him what was going on—‘What’s going on?’ They told him.
The lady had been on her bicycle and had been hit by a truck, under which she went. Forty minutes later, with policemen and paramedics surrounding her, she was pronounced dead.
She was not surrounded by loved ones when she died; they were at work and at home and at school and they did not know that she was dying, but she was dying and the end of it all was upon her. My weekend had been a good time and I had spent it with the people I loved, and I wondered how she had spent her last weekend alive, her last weekend on the planet, before she was run over and killed on a Monday morning at five-to-nine. It is Monday the twenty-second of June. It was Monday the twenty-second of June. Although she was surrounded by people in the capital city, I supposed that she felt alone, and all her bones in smaller pieces. What was her name? Her death rested on my mind.
‘Did you hear about that lady who died around the corner?’ I asked people.
‘Yes.’
‘Very sad,’ I said.
‘Yes,’ they said.
With the traffic still unmoving I thought it strange that in the street next to me a life had ended, that this morning had begun for one person but not ended. I thought—‘Of all the places to die!’ The streets felt even worse than usual. A grey fever hung over everything.
Twenty-six years old.
At lunch I walked and, as I got closer to the spot, I started to pant. With trepidation, I approached. A police car remained, but slowly started, turned and drove away. Of course everyone walked past the spot and few looked, paused, leaned away from their phones, some stopped, others thought. The city is a peculiar thing. It is. The road where she had died was not a special place other than she had drawn her last breath there, although her first breath had been drawn in a hospital somewhere with nurses and doctors around a woman waiting with love.
In the middle of the road were three bouquets of flowers. I looked at the flowers.
My bicycle courier friend said hello and I followed him into the lift. He is a short, muscular man whose relaxed face appears to want to strangle you, though I have only ever found him to be pleasant and friendly. We spoke about her, about it. He was furious—‘That’s the ninth time it’s happened this year! That spot is so fuckin dangerous!’ We wished each other a good-bye when he got out of the lift on the first floor to deliver a letter.
‘The bike was a figure-8,’ my friend told me in the office—‘We saw them lifting up the truck and retrieving it.’
‘You saw that?!’
‘Yeah.’
‘Fuck, man, I couldn’t see that. That’d be too much.’ I had not stopped thinking about it all day. ‘When I went past there were just three bouquets of flowers. I can’t stop thinking about it.’
Three bouquets of flowers, and a cloud over the city.

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