I saw you lying there on the side of that lonely stretch road in the beam of my headlight, dude. There’s no denying that! I saw you were in trouble, maybe badly injured, maybe dying. Or were you already dead?
My foot came off the accelerator and hovered over the brakes for a moment… just for a single moment.
It was a conflict between the heart and the brain, both vital. For a moment heart seemed to be in charge, because I felt the minivan slowing down as it lost momentum.
Just then the brain took over. I hit the accelerator hard and swung the wheel to give you a wide berth. While passing I saw the bicycle you should have been riding a moment before you were hit by that hit-and-run-driver, lying on its side. I also had a glimpse of the dark pool of liquid you were lying in, probably growing larger by the minute… and also I’m not very sure of this … that you were convulsing.
While I was speeding away my heart screamed. “Dude, stop and help him. How could you run away like this? This is not like you. How many people have you helped? Hey Dude, how would you like to swap places with him? How can you be so heartless? Where are all the values you believe in?”
The feeling of guilt was consuming me.
The rear view mirror suddenly lit up. I squinted. Some headlights were behind me. I felt a bit better. Someone would stop. Or would they?
It didn’t help much. How could I run away like that? Your loved ones, maybe your wife and children, maybe your mother or sister could be waiting up for you right at this moment, waiting for you to turn up any moment. You may be the one who feed so many mouths, toiling all day. And tonight a few more hours of OT most probably, in a desperate attempt to make ends meet. The possibilities were endless.
Who is that woman who is in tears and screaming in my head, “You monster, how could you just pass him? He would still be here, if you just stopped. You could have called 119…”?
Then who’s this woman in all smiles and saying this? “Thanks to you sir, he is here with us. We have no words to thank you for what you did. We are forever in your debt…” tears of joy ran down her face, “Thank God for making you pass that road, when you did.”
I almost hit the brake to slow down and make a U-turn when two cars overtook me at lightning speed. I swerved instinctively. I’d just avoided another crash. I’m not the only run away dude. What about them? I can’t scold them. All of us dudes behind the wheels that night on that particular stretch of road seemed to be thinking the same thoughts. Get out of here as fast as you can.
As if running away from a plague!
I realized the vehicle was in a skid on the wet tarmac.
A cop with handcuffs flashed in my mind like a motion picture.
“You are under arrest for causing this accident and…”.
I was protesting, “Officer I’m the one who stopped to help him.”
“You can say that at the courts.” The hand cuffs snapped shut.
This solemn judge was saying in this solemn tone, “There is no evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubt that…” I didn’t want to listen.
The dude whose head is swathed in bandages opened his eyes. His eyes scanned the crowd and then they rested on me. He then mumbled, “He is the one…”
Dude it was you!!!
I was actually back home on holiday. I was supposed to return to the foreign land and to the foreign job once again in a few weeks. So much was riding on my job, not tires tonight as that tire manufacturer Michelin said. And so much that I can’t risk on an unknown dude like you. My kid in college. The house that I built with sweat and blood, this minivan for which I compromised so much to own. Well my whole world would tumble down. Who would help me? Who would help my family while I would be doing my time in jail?
All the stories I had read in the newspapers about the fate of the dudes who stopped to help and were accused later of a crime they never committed, by the law and as well as by the angry mobs didn’t help at all.
All the stories of the unsuspecting dudes who stopped to help and were robbed, carjacked and even murdered, didn't help either.
I steered into the skid text book precision. Minivan was back in control though still in motion. I corrected the wheel to avoid hitting the tree and the vehicle responded immediately and straitened out . I changed my mind one more time.
Forgive me dude if you can.
I hit the gas again, homeward bound, where safety and security lay. The faithful Toyota diesel engine purring reassuringly beneath me whisked me through the night. Away from an incident that would possibly have changed the lives of mine and my family.