I remember her eyes. There was something eerie about them. I can almost see her now like I did four years ago. She was dark and thin, but there was strength in those eyes, in their depth; the way she blinked and widened them… I still get goose bumps whenever I remember them. She was feeble but her upper arms were strong; thin but steady like her icy eyes.
I was about to jump into the waiting cab when our eyes met. Mine held, even when hers dropped to straighten her floral skirt. I hardly stare or take much notice of strangers but for some reason, I was glued to that spot. I was frozen. Now, when I think of it, I still have no idea why I paused.
When she looked up, I looked away, embarrassed like a child caught peeping through a key hole. Then I saw a young man, maybe her brother, judging from the same set of full upper lips and oversized nose; he looked worn out in dirty jeans and a faded t-shirt as he held her wheelchair. I stepped back to give him room, just realising then that I was blocking the cab. I couldn’t stop myself from watching their well mastered performance of moving her from the car to the chair. How she folded and shrank her body into a ball, her hands hugging her chest to make it easier for him to lift her into the wheelchair. I was enthralled. Then our eyes met again. I turned and hurried on to get another cab even as the driver was calling me to come back. As I was about to step onto the cab, I glanced back and our eyes met, again. Hers hardened and then widened, with contempt? I have no idea. I wondered why at first, then I realised she must find it irritating. I wished then that I could show her my thoughts. Or maybe she was offended that I didn’t take the cab? I sighed and closed the door.
I tried not to look to my right as I rode to lecture, but I couldn’t stop my head from wandering to her. I pictured her bathing, dressing, growing from girlhood to womanhood. I wondered if she had a boyfriend. Will she have children, know the joy of motherhood? Then I saw another boy hopping on one leg and a wooden crutch. I wondered what happened to him too; was he born that way, or in an accident? How does he survive each day knowing tomorrow would be the same? What does he do when in danger? Who looks out for him? Who takes care of them all?
I didn’t have to wait for long to find out, as I didn’t return to my home or bed until four months later. I spent those months in a surgical ward with a front row view watching “Behind the Scenes of an Amputee’s Life”.
Now, I know.