L A NOCHE BOCA ARRIBA
Halfway down the long hotel vestibule, he thought that probably hewas going to be late, and hurried on into the street to get out hismotorcycle from the corner where the next-door superintendent let himkeep it. On the jewelry store at the corner he read that it was ten to nine;he had time to spare. The sun filtered through the tall downtown buildings,and he--because for himself, for just going along thinking, he did not havea name-he swung onto the machine, savoring the idea of the ride. Themotor whirred between his legs, and a cool wind whipped his pantslegs.
He let the ministries zip past (the pink, the white), and a series of stores on the main street, their windows flash ing. Now he was beginning the most pleasant part of the run, the real ride: a long street bordered withtrees, very little traffic, with spacious villas whose gardens rambled all theway down to the sidewalks, which were barely indi cated by low hedges. Abit inattentive perhaps, but tooling along on the right side of the street, heallowed himself to be carried away by the freshness, by the weightlesscontraction of this hardly begun day. This involuntary relaxa tion, possibly,kept him from preventing the accident. When he saw that the womanstanding on the corner had rushed into the crosswalk while he still had thegreen light, it was already somewhat too late for a simple solu tion. Hebraked hard with foot and hand, wrenching him self to the left; he heard thewoman scream, and at the collision his vision went. It was like falling asleep all at once. He came to abruptly. Four or five young men were get ting him out from under the cycle. He felt the taste of salt and blood, oneknee hurt, and when they hoisted him up he yelped, he couldn't bear the presssure on his right arm. Voices which did not seem to belong to thefaces hanging above him encouraged him cheerfully with jokes and assurances. His single solace was to hear someone else confirm that thelights indeed had been in his favor. He asked about the woman, trying tokeep down the nausea which was edging up into his throat. While they carried him face up to a nearby pharmacy, he learned that the cause of theaccident had gotten only a few scrapes on the legs. "Nah, you barely got her at all, but when ya hit, the impact made the machine jump and flop on
its side . . ." Opinions, recollections of other smashups, take it easy, work him in shoulders first, there, that's fine, and someone in a dust coat giving him a swallow of something soothing in the shadowy interior of the small local pharmacy.
Within five minutes the police ambulance arrived, and they lifted himonto a cushioned stretcher. It was a relief for him to be able to lie out flat.Completely lucid, but real izing that he was suffering the effects of aterrible shock, he gave his information to the officer riding in the ambulance with him. The arm almost didn't hurt; blood dripped down from acut over the eyebrow all over his face. He licked his lips once or twice todrink it. He felt pretty good, it had been an accident, tough luck; stay quiet a few weeks, nothing worse. The guard said that the motorcycle didn't seem badly racked up. "Why should it," he replied. "It all landed on top of me." They both laughed, and when they got to the hospital, the guard shook his hand and wished him luck. Now the nausea was coming back little by little; meanwhile they were pushing him on a wheeled stretcher toward a pavilion further back, rolling along under trees full of birds, heshut his eyes and wished he were asleep or chloroformed. But they kept him for a good while in a room with that hospital smell, filling out a form,getting his clothes off, and dressing him in a stiff, greyish smock. They moved his arm carefully, it didn't hurt him. The nurses were constantly making wise cracks, and if it hadn't been for the stomach contractions hewould have felt fine, almost happy.
They got him over to X-ray, and twenty minutes later,...
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