The Fall

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Later, Amy told her mother how it had been like watching a car crash in a television show. All the signs were there; a steep escalator, the early bus, the woman with too many bags on her arms running to catch it. As she stood on the escalator coming up and out of the hot bus station, Amy kept her eyes on the woman on the escalator going down. The woman was middle-aged, short, and dressed in a purple coat. She carried two plastic bags of groceries and a bunch of flowers. Amy turned her head to watch as they passed one another and the woman was carried away. The flowers were strange green things, a collection of conical shapes made of tiny buds. They were wrapped in shiny pink cellophane and the stems were held together with ribbon. Yes, it had been like a car crash; the bus arrived, the woman broke into a run and then fell as the ground beneath her turned from moving stairs into solid ground at the bottom of the escalator. Earlier, Amy had been on her way to see a friend in the city. She knew her trajectory: up the escalator, across the station floor and out into the street that smelled of cigarette smoke and sweat. It should have taken three minutes but today it took her five because she stopped to watch the woman, to watch other people help her up and wonder if she should do something. In the city she ate sushi and told her friend what had happened. They walked to a bookstore and Amy stroked book spines with pale fingers, wondering how long the lady had had to wait for the next bus, standing in a station full of people who saw her fall, who saw so many colours and shapes moving from one arrangement to another so quickly and violently.

At the sight of her bus pulling in, the woman moved fast and the white mass of grocery bags swung back and forth and then, in a second, her small body was prostrate, the bags on the floor and the flowers at the bottom of the elevator being pushed again, again, again by the moving stairs as they folded under the ground.

At the top of the escalators Amy stepped onto steady ground and threw her arms out just a little from her body, as if to catch the stranger far below. She watched as a boy in jeans rushed forward and asked if she was okay. Amy watched her brush down her purple coat and insist ‘I’m fine, I’m fine’. The woman quickly collected her groceries and then walked to the bottom of the elevator, where people with their dirty boots and polished heels were stepping over the flowers. The green cones were a little bent and the pink cellophane crumpled. She picked them up, glanced around her, and walked quietly away.