The sedan has settled into the mud, buried to the axles, its bumper touching a telephone pole. Two women are bent over and speaking to the driver whose head lolls back, a bump puffing up her forehead; she answers questions slowly, not quite there. We take turns asking about her job and children, Christmas presents, bakeries and good bread, her high school, who she married, anything to keep her awake. Flashers on, our cars squat on a two lane road a few feet above marshes soaked to the verges. We can see for a hundred yards in either direction. The rain continues. Cars drift by. Half slow down, windows slide open and the drivers, a few looking stricken, ask what we need.
The three of us wait in the immediate intimacy of strangers who gather to help at accidents and fires, at emergencies of all types — a picture signals stop, an ancient principle takes hold, our wariness dissolves: someone is helpless, someone is hurt, what can be done.
Her husband and mother-in-law arrive, their eyes flaring, intense. The EMT’s roll up, a fire engine right behind them, red lights pulsing. The three of us leave, waving to each other, slipping back into our jumbled morning. By the time I have driven out of sight, I have forgotten their names.
painting from Infamous Jim’s Auto Art