Blood Stain

February 26, 2018
By Anonymous

“Taxi!” My dad called, as we saw a pair of headlights approaching. “Taxi!” He waved his arms. The red taxi stopped in front of us. My uncle held my sleeping four-year-old cousin, Juhi, against his chest, and my other cousin, Joy, leaned against my aunt sleepily. I’d been nodding off for the last two hours of the engagement party we were at as well, but I refuse to sleep during parties.
     We all settled into the taxi: my brother and dad in the back; my mom, aunt, Joy, and I in the middle; and the driver and my uncle, with Juhi in his lap, in the front. It was a tight fit, but in India, it doesn’t matter. The air conditioning felt so refreshing after the midnight summer heat that we had all let out a little sigh as we sat down. My mom and aunt immediately began slipping off their heavy earrings, unfastening their necklaces, and pulling their chudis off their wrists. Their fingernails were painted a matching shade of red. The driver, Ajay, started the car.
     “What’s the address, sir?” he asked my uncle.
     “7942 Raja Galli,” my uncle responded. I laid my head in my mom’s lap. The itchy lehnga my aunt made me wear scratched against my legs, making it hard to sleep. Nevertheless, a few minutes later, I began to drift off.
     But the car jerked before I fully drifted off, and my mom grabbed onto me so I wouldn’t fall over. Several cars honked at once around us, and voices yelled indistinctly. I wasn’t worried since this happened every few minutes in India traffic. I knew I wouldn’t be able to fall back sleep, though, so I sat up. In the process, I knocked over the container with my mom’s jewelry, and her necklace spilled out. I bent down to pick it up.
     Ajay opened his window and peered outside to see what was happening. The stifling heat flowed through the window, and I almost asked him to roll it up again, but my curiosity, as usual, won over. If he rolled the window up, the sun shielder on his taxi would block my view. My brother and cousins were still sleeping, and so was my dad. I craned my neck to see what was going on.
     A young rickshaw driver was helping up a dazed-looking man from the crosswalk. It appeared that the rickshaw driver hit the man, who must have been crossing the street in a hurry. I looked at my mom.
     “Go back to sleep, sweetie. It’s nothing,” she told me.
     “No. I can’t sleep,” I said.
     “I am sorry, guys. This is a really bad traffic jam. They have collided at a four-way intersection, so we will have to wait a while,” Ajay told us.
     The man who had fallen wore a light brown coat--oversized, despite his large body--and white baggy pants. I couldn’t see much else in the dim light, but it looked like he had a mustache. A gold earring glittered in his right ear. He towered over the small, skinny rickshaw driver, who looked concerned.
      All the cars around the scene had stopped at this point. It was almost silent, which was so scarce in India, that it was creepy. All the usual road noises--cars honking, sirens, street vendors yelling--were so muted, that I had felt like I’d taken a step off the Earth.
     “Bhaiya, please let me call the ambulance. I will even pay the bill. They can make sure you are okay. I am very sorry about this,” the rickshaw driver told the man he crashed into, jarring me out of my thoughts.
     “No. You don’t need to call the ambulance. I said I was fine, didn’t I?” the man said harshly. The rickshaw driver flinched, wiping his hands on his shirt nervously.
     “But you’re bleeding.” The rickshaw driver pointed towards the left side of the man’s rib cage. I hadn’t noticed before, but right near his left pocket was a growing patch of blood. The man’s eyes widened. “I won’t be able to sleep at night if I know I caused you this pain and didn’t do anything about it, bhaiya. Please, at least let me drive you to the hospital.”
     “Chal hat! How many times will I have to tell you that I am fine? Get out of my way. First you crash into me, now you won’t leave me alone! Can’t you see that I was trying to get somewhere?” the man had said, a vein popping in his forehead. The stoplight turned from green to red again, even though not a single car had moved.
     “Sorry, bhaiya,” the driver said, hanging his head a little. He turned back towards his rickshaw, and the man continued walking along as he did before the rickshaw hit him. The rickshaw driver took out his phone.
     About thirty seconds later, just as the man had reached the end of the crosswalk, we heard sirens, coming our way. The cars scrambled to clear a path for the paramedics.
The walking man turned from his spot, his face ghostly under the bright moonlight, shining with sweat and from the red glow of the stoplight. “I told you not to call them!” he yelled at the rickshaw driver. “I told you not to!”
     I didn’t know why he was so sure that the paramedics were bad for him. Maybe it was the cost? Maybe he just didn’t want to go to the hospital. My mom had always said that a lot of people have bad memories from the hospital.
     The rickshaw driver said nothing. He simply turned, and the walking man sprinted away from the sirens. But before he could get further than a few steps, something fell out of his deep pocket.
     “Ajay, close the window! Now!” my mom had yelled at Ajay, and he hurried to, but he wasn’t quick enough. Before the window rolled up, and the sun shielder could cover what my mom was trying to hide from me--what the man had been trying to hide from everyone--I saw it.
     Several police cars were at every road segment, directing the traffic. As Ajay turned the car, I got another look at the dropped thing. It laid on the ground by the man’s feet: an arm--a woman’s arm--cut off at the elbow.
     Sickening purple-red blood dripped from it. It had looked like a part of a slaughtered animal, except for the ten thick gold and silver chudis around the wrists, and several rings on each finger, all stained red. The man looked around wildly, searching for a way to escape-- uselessly, given the police cars surrounding him.
     The light turned green again and all I could think was: The man--he wasn’t the victim. The blood-- it wasn’t his.

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