Monday, May 16, 2011

And Then

And then Leo stepped off the curb.
I reached for him, grabbed his arm. I pulled him back and then
I jumped in front of the car to push it away from him.
And then I thought:  it's okay that I have my hands pressed into the grill. when I hit the pavement bones and muscles might give way.  A second birth.  And then
I screamed, My Baby, My Baby, My Baby.

His nose was bleeding, he cried.
I shouted, Leo too? The car, Leo too?  (In broken Hungarian)
I knew the car hit me (or I hit the car). I wanted to know if the car hit Leo.

No one could say. Or would say.

I sat on the curb. Leo sat upright in my lap, heart to heart. His blood soaked my shirt.
I reached for Iza.  She came and stood next to my, stroking my back.  She took care of me. (That's not her job.) She never cried.

Later a witness said the car's front tire hit Leo in the head.

And then the ambulance came. The police.
There was no fault. Except mine, of course. I am the mother.
It is my job to keep them alive, 
at minimum.

The driver:  a young man in a suit. Two other young men in the car, wearing suits. I didn't say a word to them. I wish I would've told them they weren't to blame.
I worry about them too.

People rushed to the scene:  A woman with a child on her hip, a nurse from high school next door, several men. There was shouting and silence. Someone offered me water. 
I refused, but then directed them to pour it over Leo's finger.  It poured over his raw flesh. Iza quickly pointed out that the water was spilling. This part of the story she always repeats, 
when the water spilled.

I took Leo's finger, his right index finger, bloodied, and put it in my mouth.  
I sucked it clean. I was calm.

In the ambulance they bandaged my scrapes, but never examined me. They felt Leo's head, but never took off his shoes or clothes to look for wounds.  Later I will see his elbow is scraped raw.

And then, sitting in the ambulance, the police asked my name.  Janet Kelley, or Kelley Janet?  (In Hungarian they say the family name first.)  Birthdate?  11/18 or 18/11?  (In Hungary they offer the day first, then the month.)  In my head I shout:  absurdity!  who the fuck cares!  Drive us to an x-ray machine!

Laszlo had left that morning for Zurich.  I had no cash, no phone (it was in the apartment), and no passport.  I didn't know our street address.  I knew the street, but not the house number.

And then the ambulance was driving quietly, sedately through tree-lined Budapest avenues toward a hospital.  Leo fell asleep in my arms.  I checked to see he was breathing.  
The x-ray technician was hostile, to say the least.  She wanted me to hold Leo a certain way and I didn't understand.  And then when I did understand, I tried to say I couldn't hold his face that way because my hand was in pain. Her response, if you don't do it we can't take the x-ray.  

So what is a little more pain?

The x-ray showed no damage to the bone. And they released us. We took a taxi home, no car seats.

The accident happened at noon. We were home by two.

And then, lunch as usual.

And then

I pulled Leo back. I felt him slip from my grasp. 
I jumped in front of the car. You know, to stop it.

I walked away. Leo walked away.

Izabella watched the entire event from the curb. This terrifies me.

And then, again, Iza asks, "Do you wanna tell about it?  Accident?  When the car came?"

I am convinced the car didn’t hit Leo.  I am sure his head injury was caused when I pulled him back and he fell down on the street.

I almost wish I had a broken bone.

And then I was waiting in front of the nursery's large wooden door on a narrow street in Budapest, close to the castle. It was noon. Clear, sunny fall day. The children raced down the sidewalk as they returned from the park. I was there to pick up Iza and Leo. It was their third morning in the nursery. I brought them at ten and then 
was supposed to return at noon.  Two hours. And then
a woman in a car was waving hello (or asking if she could park?) and
then we were all saying hellos--six kids, two teachers, and myself.  
And I hugged and kissed my kids
and then there was small talk or not and hungry kids ready to go inside to lunch and naps and then

Leo stepped off the curb.

"Do you wanna talk about it? Accident?"

Yes, I do. As many times as you do, Iza. And then



István Albert said...

Whoa - what a bone chilling event.

One moment life is business as usual - the next we get to stare down the abyss - and as it looks back we realize just how precarious life is

Réka Albert said...

I'm so sorry this happened to you!