Being creatures of habits – clock hands living our lives in circular, cyclical routine – I’m convinced every single living person is sharply aware and fears the times when their lives spiral out of control. Or maybe not spiral but rupture. Something suddenly happening out of the blue knocking you out of your routine, your normal everyday set of experiences into the unfamiliar. I myself, like any other person hate ruptures, fear them, unless it’s a Lotto win, a new work opportunity or something of the like. Other than that, every single minute of the day I walk about guarding against them. I mumble, “look right then left, then right again” under my breath before I cross the road. I inconspicuously scan my surroundings like a double agent in a spy novel, careful I’m not being followed or walking into a trap laid out by knife or gun wielding young men. I’m the opposite of a rat; I hate dark quiet streets and embrace the day and bustle of people even though sometimes it’s the bustle that is the problem.
This one time on my way to work, my bus had to slowly circumnavigate a man lying on his back in the middle of the road, his left leg broken, the foot right next to the thigh like some grotesque yoga position. A teenage girl wearing the uniform of a nearby school stood over him, while police paced about, directing traffic around the accident. There were other people, mostly school kids, walking by on the pavement like ants, barely stopping to observe the scene. It was surreal. Without even realising it I connected the dots between how the man got there. It was easy. Parked on the curb, not too far away was a taxi, with a dent on its front. It was empty, the passengers already gone, undoubtedly shaken but already scampering to get back on track to their normal daily routine, scurrying so they could clock in at 9 and clock out at 5 like any other day. The man had obviously been walking the girl to the school not more than a 100 metres away. As they say in Britain and America, “no sh*#, Sherlock”.
She stood over him with a phone to her ear, probably calling an ambulance, a sheepishly embarrassed expression on her face, aware that she and the man, who was either her father or uncle, stood centre stage to the endless bustle of people driving and walking by. At one point she shyly smiled and raised a hand to wave at someone, a classmate, a friend walking by on the pavement. Meanwhile the man was on the floor chattering to one of the police officers without so much as a wince about only God and the three of them knows what.
“…yes, yes I did look right and then left, it was the look right again that messed me up!… Pain!? I can barely feel a thing but you grimacing like that every time you glance at my leg is not helping let me tell you, excuse me for a moment, Lumka are you having any luck with your mother mntanam?… Tell her not to panic I’m hurt but at least I’m alive… Anyway kanene bhuti what was I saying?… No, before the grimacing… Yeke! I was saying it was the looking right again…’’
A rupture. No way was it going to be a day like any other for the two of them, hell the man was probably going to have to adjust to a completely new routine for the foreseeable future. They both knew it, they were both dazed yet charged with adrenaline, suddenly thrown into the unfamiliar. Even from the bus I could see it in their eyes as we drove away.