Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Our neighbour didn't want sugar or eggs

One evening in between the shifts my parents and I had taken to spend time with my brother in the hospital, our South Indian Christian neighbour, Mr. Jose (pronounced joze), appeared at our door. My mother was at the hospital - she had the night shift - so my father and I accompanied our neighbour to his house.

The Jose flat was the mirror image of our own home, and I always found it slightly dizzying to find my way around. In the room we used as a dining room in our own flat, a dark brown man sat on the couch, surrounded by Mrs. Jose and her young children. He looked to be about 30, a muscular man, but the way his head hung below his strong shoulders looked out of place. Mr. Jose explained to us that the young man's wife was in the hospital. They were newly married, and he'd brought her over from India to Oman soon after their wedding. She was a nurse. A few days ago the newly-weds had got caught in the tail-end of a traffic jam. The husband had already got out of his car to survey the scene. His wife was still in the car. She wanted to join her husband and was in the process of taking off her seatbelt when another car crashed into theirs from the back. The young wife survived but broke her neck. She was now in the hospital, permanently paralysed below the neck. Her husband was here, he knew the Joses from church. I looked at him, his strong shoulders shaking under his white office shirt. Mr. Jose knew about my brother's recent accident and paraplegia, so he'd brought us in, but I'm not sure for what. I just stood there, not old enough to interrupt all the adults.

I ran into the nurse once, now being tended to by other nurses, at the Indian Spinal Injuries Center in New Delhi, India. She was dark brown too with the short Princess Diana hair. I heard she had wanted children. Her face bore no expression, and I didn't know what to say to her either. You never know what to say. My brother once told me that paralysis is infinitely worse for women, all the things it can mean. I heard that she went back to her village in South India. The Joses have long since moved away, the building we used to live in demolished.

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