I saw a kid get hit by a truck a couple days ago.
I’m riding my bike through the neighborhood on my way to the river trail. My memory banks run in short-term mode; everything is normal, my brain processes only immediate navigational information. No data worth storing for more than a few seconds.
Something small and fast darts out in front of the truck coming the other way. I realize that it’s a child, about four years old. He’s holding a bag of chips and has no idea that a truck is about to transfer its kinetic energy into his body.
The next salient memory is the pop and crunch when the bumper and grille of the truck make contact with the boy. (My brain instantly archives this sound for long-term storage.) Underneath that sound somewhere is the squealing of rubber on asphalt. The boy tumbles through the air and lands about ten feet in front of the truck, lying on his back.
Three seconds of intense silence.
And then the boy’s sister, maybe eight years old, starts screaming. The driver gets out, shaking and obviously scared to look at what’s lying in front of his truck.
A door opens way too fast and smashes against the wall it’s bolted to. The boy’s mother rushes out of their house, shrieking in a discordant, otherworldly pitch. She runs across the street herself, not looking for other oncoming traffic.
I tell her not to move the boy. His spine, his head, his internal organs—moving him could kill him.
She doesn’t hear me or doesn’t listen. She picks him up in her arms (he’s that small) and starts screaming at the boy’s sister, who was supposed to be watching him.
I’ve got my phone out. I’m calling an ambulance.
“No policia,” a man next to me says. Everyone on the street heard the accident. A small crowd has gathered outside. This guy’s younger than me, tattooed, looks like a gangster.
The boy is crying now. He’s not dead—but he’s not moving. His head is covered in blood. It’s running down his mother’s arms.
All I can do is stare at the guy. My eyes say, really?
“No policia,” he repeats.
I put my phone away.
The last thing I see before I clip my shoe into the pedal and ride away is the mother looking up at the sky and blathering, “Dios something something, Jesus something something.”
All I could think about—because I didn’t feel like reviewing the accident in my mind—was how strange it was that despite this pointless tragedy she still believed some all-powerful force was up there, and that it gave a damn about her. About any of us.
You have to adopt strange ways of thinking in order to cope with living on this planet.