I was running errands Saturday and distracted, so when I hit the Fullerton-Pulaski intersection it took me a moment to figure out what was going on. A man with a walker and several full shopping bags had apparently begun crossing the street a few feet outside of the crosswalk and then stopped. A man, in other words, with a host of complicated accoutrements was standing, for no discernible reason, in the middle of a chaotic intersection. Drivers often get aggressive at that corner. Some of the lanes are unmarked, so drivers tend to lose their sense of where a car might fit on the road. There’s an occasional lag in a light change, and the horn-honking comes quick and voluminous. Yet there was a man, in the actual center of a turning lane on Fullerton. Just standing there.
My mind flashed on all the headlines I might read about this situation in all the cities I spend time in: New York. Phnom Penh. Vienna. Detroit. Tbilisi. The imagined headlines were gory and unkind, and in the made-up stories that ran beneath them the man always died a horrible violent death because he was standing, immobile, in a busy intersection.
Yet in front of me stood a man who wasn’t moving because he had started crossing the street but then realized that he needed a moment to enjoy the sun on his face. The driver to my right noticed him, and pulled up alongside him and then turned, suddenly, stopping anyone from zipping too quickly down the only occasionally marked lane and hitting him. A driver headed in the opposite direction along Fullerton also pulled over, stalling in the center eastbound lane, creating an effective if temporary barrier to anyone taking the corner too quickly and failing to spot him. The turning driver in front of me could not move forward without running him over. So we all just waited.
No one honked. No one yelled. No one crashed into anyone else. A couple moments passed. The sun shone. Then the man started moving again, continuing his path across the street. The eastbound driver eased away. The westbound driver straightened her vehicle and drove along. And when the intersection was clear, the driver in front of me turned south on Pulaski, and everyone went about their days as if nothing worthwhile had happened.
There will be no headlines for this story. But maybe there should be?
It reminded me of our cover story this week, a flu explainer for this amazing city by Aimee Ortega. Of course we have plenty of wrapping up to do this issue too, with year-end wrap-ups from Mike Sula, Ben Sachs, Leor Galil, and more. Another look back: we inadvertently left off an image credit in our last issue, when we featured a selection from Eduardo Kac’s 1999 Genesis on our cover (courtesy Henrique Faria Fine Arts, New York).
And one note on the future: next week’s flash fiction issue will cover two weeks, and will be really great, because it is written by you. It’s a must-have! We don’t want to tell you to start camping out by your neighborhood Reader boxes now, but we do promise to bring you hot chocolate if we spot you next to a tent holding an I LOVE FLASH FICTION sign. v