The falling snow may never again be beautiful to the woman kneeling in the street over her dying dog. Looking back, it can’t be the elegant stage snow that seems to descend for decorative purposes, the snow the rest of the city woke up to that day. Instead, a meteorological slight, flagrant beauty on such a horrible day.
We, the onlookers, stand at varying distances, helpless against the gruesome impact. The car against the dog’s body, the irretrievable pain to the heart of the woman on her knees in the street, the way it stuns you to become extras in one of the worst days of someone’s life.
Someone alerts a vet from an animal-care facility located just across the street, a fact you wouldn’t notice unless you have a dog, or see a woman in scrubs racing across traffic with no coat toward a patient beyond care. Her movements suggest efficiency and hope, but her face reveals what we already know. Hope has left this scene.
She lifts the dog in her arms, caramel colored and soft, and moves quickly, despite carrying close to 30 pounds, back toward her office. The owner stays on her knees. Only after the dog is gone does she break down.
The man whose car hit the dog is speaking to her in words I cannot hear. From his body language, he seems to be trying to explain how it all happened, why it really isn’t his fault. She screams back, “We were in the crosswalk!” Watching, I can’t help but think that the only response that’s reasonable is to kneel and cry and say, “I am so sorry.”
Some of us are struck by the gore; others more by the emotional wreckage. No one knows what to do. I am one of the last to join this collection of dazed people marooned on the curb. I realize no one feels emotionally able to cross the invisible barrier between her and us, the blood and the curb, the haunting day this will be forever and the Wednesday morning we had expected.
A red-haired woman and I approach. I lift the owner from the spot where her companion died. I try to raise her firmly, making my body big and steady. Of all the terrible things about this terrible moment, it seems unfair that a person should also have to walk alone. She looks back frantically.
“We’re following your dog,” I say quietly as we walk toward the animal clinic.
“I want his name,” she says of the man.
I know he’s not likely to share it. He didn’t kneel with her. His face was not stricken with hurt but panicked by culpability. Maybe another onlooker will get his license plate number. Someone in a black coat is talking to him. I don’t know what is useful. I know only the weight of her body bolstered against my arm, the stylish sleeve of her jacket, the bewildered pain in her eyes as she searches for a way to make sense of a block of the city she crosses multiple times a day, thousands of times a year.
“Is there someone we can call to come get you?” the other woman walking with us asks.
“No. I live right THERE,” the woman cries.
Somehow, this compounds the tragedy of it. Count it as another impact. The unwitting way we walk out of our homes, now more fragile than we realized when we left, putting on this hat and that coat, going here and then there. A quick walk before the phone call or appointment, the other thing we were going to do that was not supposed to gut us.
But sometimes it hits us, and we fall to our knees.Rebecca Pacheco is the author of “Do Your Om Thing: Bending Yoga Tradition to Fit Your Modern Life.” She can be reached on Twitter @omgal.