F is for Fall

fall: to drop or descend under the force of gravity, as to a lower place through loss or lack of support.

crosswalkI see them in the crosswalk a block ahead of me when her slight frame collapses suddenly like a rickety chair. He tries to catch her but doesn’t get there fast enough to break her fall. Still, he manages to cradle her head before it hits the ground. Her hat falls onto the road, releasing a sleek, gray-streaked bob.

There are no other cars on this leafy, suburban street. I slow way down, careful not to come too close before stopping. I don’t want to scare them or make them feel like they need to hurry out of the way. I stay a few hundred feet back and check for cars behind me. All clear and none coming the other way. For a wild second I wonder if I should go help them, but I see that the man is already lifting her to her feet. My heart thumping, I stay rooted behind the wheel of my solid SUV. I feel as though I am guarding them.

From this distance, I can see that they’re not at all elderly but rather somewhere in their early- to mid-60s. The woman is now upright but not moving. The man holds her steady as he bends to pick up her walking cane. He offers her the stick and she gingerly reaches for it, a look of intense concentration on her face, her hand slow and shaking. When she finally takes it from him, she rests heavily against it.

One of her feet is all wonky, turned inward at an odd angle. He gently reaches down and tenderly moves her leg so her feet are parallel. The act seems so intimate; I feel like an intruder sitting in my car, watching. He straightens up, looking at her intently. His lips move but I’m too far away to hear anything. She doesn’t respond, but her gaze is transfixed on his face. It’s a kind face, a handsome face and in this moment it is wrinkled with love and fear and heartbreak. We wait together, we three. She doesn’t move. They are only about a foot and a half apart, but she cannot cover the distance on her own.

He hesitates half a heartbeat more, then gathers her to him, pressing her frail body to his, wrapping his arms all the way around her. They stay like that for a few seconds, lovers joined together in the middle of the crosswalk. Then he gently shifts her weight and carries her to the sidewalk.

I am stuck in the middle of the road, my foot glued to the brake, tearing up until everything is blurry. I swipe my eyes with the back of my hand, looking to him for the okay signal. He glances over the woman’s shoulder and gives me a small smile. I nod back, release the brake and carefully move forward.

We never know what love will bring us. We can only do our best to meet it with kind eyes, a steady hand and tenderness.

I’m participating in the 2014 A to Z Challenge during the month of April using the very broad theme of LOVE to carry me through the alphabet. Check out writing by other bloggers taking on the #atozchallenge at @AprilA2Z.

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