Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Encounter in a Dark Alley

I've always felt closest to God while in motion.

To me, the most obvious sign of the hand of God is when He blocks my car with a sudden slow car, or eases it with a set of perfectly timed lights. This is His way of ensuring that what needs to happen, happens, and at the right time.

When walking anything more than a block, I always experience at least one meaningful encounter: a lost person, a sudden object sighting in a store window, an encounter with a neighbor. Last night's was a little more meaningful than others.

Walking to meet friends on Emek Refaim, I nearly passed by the dark alley that connects two larger streets, but decided in the end to turn down it. The alley begins with three small steps down into it.

At the bottom of the steps, a man with a tattered cast on his right arm lay with his feet on the steps, his body prostrate in the alley. He was white-haired and thin, dark-skinned (Arab or Sephardic, I can't always tell), and shabbily dressed. While briefly concerned about a trap to steal my money or the possibility of acquiring swine flu, I nevertheless stopped to ask if he needed help. He said, groggily, that he did.

I tried unsuccessfully for several minutes to get him to his feet. His face had scars and his lip was cut, but otherwise I thought the standing problem stemmed entirely from the alcohol I smelled on him.

After several minutes, by which point I had him sitting at least, another man stopped and looked at us from the mouth of the alley and asked if we needed help. I said yes.

We got him to his feet, but he couldn't walk on his own, and could only stand by leaning against a wall or person. I tried to ask where he was going, and he said down the alley to the other side. I asked if he lives near and he said yes. I asked his name. He said Yechiel.

About this time a couple stopped at the mouth of the alley and asked if we were all together, to which I said no. I started walking the man down the alley, a few steps, and then resting. The other guy followed. After a few of these steps, the woman said that she had called an ambulance (I wasn't entirely sure why, yet). A few more steps and then we stopped in a slightly more lit circle within the alley.

Only then did I see the circle of blood on the back of his head, under the white hair. The guy kept smiling, occasionally cursing (Israelis curse by saying "sheet"), holding my hand and leaning. He was very unsteady, but not entirely incoherent. We waited for the ambulance.

For some reason, a minute later two police showed up; do they monitor calls to the ambulance? They asked the guy questions (somewhat harshly, to my ears): What happened? Can you walk? Do you need help? I had to point out the head wound to the police.

With all these people around, and an ambulance on the way, I decide that I was no longer needed and could make my way to the rendezvous with my friends. So I don't know how it ended.
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