I’m not sure what had brought you to this intersection. Perhaps it was curiosity, perhaps it was an accident— attention doesn’t seem to be a popular thing at 2 a.m. in Iquitos, Peru.
You pulled up slowly. The look you held in your eyes was identical to apathy. I remember your eyes as they slowly scanned the knot of moto taxis, the mangled bodies, the blood pouring from his head. . . I remember how they looked as they connected with mine, which quickly delivered the message that the man in blue was moments from death.
Then, you twisted your wrist and started to drive away.
Desperate, I leaped out in front of your motor bike, grabbing your handle bars and shouting, “Necesitamos te! Ayuda! Por favor, ayuda, por favor!”
We needed you.
You at least had a phone to call for help, I didn’t.
Finally, you stopped and turned off the bike. You took a deep breath and reluctantly walked toward the mess.
I played this scene over in my head the days following. I realized, then, that that deep breath wasn’t one of frustration, it was one of preparation; and the look I mistook for apathy was one of fear.
I know you will never read this, it’s not even written in Spanish. However, I’m writing to say that it’s okay— it’s okay to be afraid of death, especially when it’s thrown so graphically in your face.
We needed you there. We couldn’t save him; perhaps, we weren’t meant to.
We can’t always save others, but we can’t feel helpless, either. Our helplessness blocks our light from shining, and that is all that is really needed from us. For that, we must surrender our own fear and be there to shine light in these last moments— to be a stranger and to hold their hand, to shed a tear, to send some final love, to whisper, “it’s going to be okay,” and assure them that it will be (whether or not they make it) . . . that is all we can do.
So, for all of this and for facing your fear, thank you, hesitant man, for being there.