Friday, October 25, 2013

Death on the GWB- Chapter Two- (A Work of Fiction)

Bob Smith had never been in trouble with the law, never questioned by the police, never the subject of an investigation. He was much like almost everyone who is reading these words and saying that could never happen to me.

Smith had been a high school football player, a fullback, bulking up to 225 pounds. He was known for delivering ferocious blows to defensive players who entered his domain. He was a hitter.

After high school he had gotten out of shape, at one point reaching close to 250 pounds. Now, and for the last two decades, his weight had held steady between 190 and 195. At six foot one inch, he was, for his age, built like a rock. He worked at being fit, not only biking over 100 miles on most weekends, but being a constant visitor to the gym weekday mornings at 6 AM.

Smith wasn't certain how fast he had been going when he struck Mary Dolan. It was somewhat common practice for cyclists, at least cyclists who were serious like he was, to travel across the GWB at relatively high speed. There was an inherent belief in the capacity of the skilled rider to deal with any situation that could arise and an equally strong  implicit understanding that all who walked on that pathway quickly moved once a biker came near. And this time there was also that rush of adrenaline Smith experienced as he led his group out of New Jersey and back home.

Smith stumbled across a troubling story as he combed the internet searching for something to help quiet his mind. The headline of the 2012 article in the San Francisco Chronicle read "Was the Cyclist Who Killed the Pedestrian Reckless?"  It appeared that biker may have been traveling at a speed of over 30 MPH when the fatal collision took place.

As he read, Smith worked at distinguishing those facts from what had happened to him.  Smith had been a lawyer for almost 30 years but he had only dealt with one criminal matter in his entire career. As a young associate at a small firm, he had been handed a file involving a clear case of mistaken identity. The defendant had been hundreds of miles from the scene of the crime at the time it occurred. He had his time card from his employment and the sworn statement of a fellow worker. Smith, even though he was totally incapable of handling that case, or any case involving something other than equitable distribution of assets and establishing a fair level of support, had been able to convince the prosecutor to drop the charges. This time he feared would not be so simple.

A 2011 study in New York City reported there were at least 1000 reported injuries sustained every year by pedestrians struck by bicycles. The report had been a response to questions raised by a group that had been formed in 2009. A widow, whose husband had been struck and killed by a delivery man on a bike on 42nd street, had begun a crusade to investigate the issue of bike safety and what could be done to insure safe passage for pedestrians on the streets of New York.

In April of 2013 New York City issued rules to protect the public from the ever increasing menace of those darting through the streets and sidewalks on the way to their appointed rounds. The new law mandated that delivery riders carry ID cards, wear helmets and reflective upper body clothing. The name of the business and the ID number of the cyclist was to be displayed. Headlights and bells were mandated. Both the Department of Transportation and the police were given the power to cite violators.

Yet the problem only grew worse as a result of what could be considered a mad dash to beat Amazon to the finish line. What had begun years before as the phenomenon of overnight delivery, had been ratcheted up by Amazon's fulfillment centers throughout the country. Products could now be ordered and received the same day. But for those in New York City, and in areas around the country, this was not soon enough. And so, "valets" were now being dispatched, personal shoppers on bicycles. Orders were placed, bikers dispatched, and promises of same hour service were made. At holiday time, the madness only escalated. And the "accidents" multiplied, as pedestrians became collateral damage in this war against the clock.

One more matter increased the possibility of  harm. On May 27, 2013 New York City initiated its CitiBikes program. By mid-September it had been declared a big success. As of September 12, 2013 there had been nearly 3.2 million trips on these bikes, and 288,000 subscribers to the program. Bikes had never been more popular or more prevalent on the streets and sidewalks. Bikes were now news and, in October of 2013, were the subject of an oped piece in the Sunday New York Times.

Bob Smith had been more than in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was at the wrong moment in history.

As he picked up his cell phone to call the law office of a man he had never met but had read about throughout the years, a thousand thoughts rushed through his mind, but two persisted: "What will the rest of my life be?" and "I killed her."


Tom Dolan met Mary Walters the year after college. He had earlier been in a serious relationship that had started the first week  he entered the small liberal arts university in New England. Through Tom's four years there, he and his girlfriend had been almost inseparable. When he thought back on those days, he decided  he had made a mistake, depriving himself of far too much of what the experience should have been.

After college, Tom returned to his parent's home in New Jersey. Distance proved the undoing of his college romance, and even though there was no official decision to end it, both he and his soon to be former girlfriend began to create new lives without one another.

Tom discovered Mary that fall. She was a year younger than him, small, only five feet tall and weighing no more than 100 pounds. She was pretty, and best of all, she was athletic. Although Tom was only five feet seven inches (on a good day) and 140 pounds, he considered himself an athlete. He had been a "natural", able to throw a ball earlier than almost anyone else his age. Until his early teens, when others started to mature physically and pass him by, Tom was a star. Even now he had a hard time not thinking of himself in the same terms as he did at 10.

Mary had decided to stay in the area for college. She went to school in the city, often commuting from her parent's home in the suburbs of Bergen County, for a semester or two living in the college dorms.

Her first date with Tom had been memorable for him if not for her. They had dined at a local restaurant after having played an hour of tennis. She had more than held her own and, whether she knew it or not, Tom was very impressed. At dinner, Tom had brought a bottle of wine, but even then he was not much of a drinker. Mary had finished off far more than her date and was slightly drunk by the time they headed back to Mary's home. As Tom dropped her off, he said he was low on gas and would call her when he got home. As the phone rang, she was in her nightgown and almost asleep. Tom thought he had not made much of an impact.

They were engaged within six months and married a year after meeting. Now, almost forty years later, there was no more Mary.

Tom thought that he had never been alone, really alone, his entire life: a college girlfriend as soon as he left home,  then a return to his boyhood bedroom and finally, Mary. She had been taking care of him from the moment she said "I do". His life and hers were even more inseparable than that he experienced during his college years. They had worked in business together for more than 30 years. Out of the office she covered up almost all of his faults with her abilities. While he was known for being inept, she was anything but. Every lightbulb that had to be replaced, every knob that needed fixing, every meal that was cooked, every important piece of Tom's life, every good thing that had happened, everything was because of Mary.

And now he cursed himself for his lack of courage on the GWB.. With the image of  his fallen wife seared into his brain, a thousand thoughts rushed through his mind, but two persisted: "What will the rest of my life be?" and "I killed her."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I know somebody inept married to a wonderwoman!