a rainy day in Oxford

On dreary Cornmarket, Saturday shoppers wield umbrellas against the rain as they emerge from ubiquitous chain stores.

A young blind man walks carefully through the crowd. He tightens the drawstring on his cagoule hood. Not so long ago this would have further reduced his working eye’s peripheral vision and disoriented him. But sadly that’s no longer an issue.

A police car, responding to an incident, sets off from the Cowley station.

The young man starts to feel hungry. Maybe having to concentrate so hard on walking in the rain, hearing and touch dampened, is burning extra calories? Who knows. But anyway there are plenty of cake shops on the High Street so he cuts through the Indoor Market and out of the rain for a minute.

A group of slow moving tourists keep their umbrellas up as they too cut through the old Market alleys. He senses and avoids them.

The car is in a hurry but sees no reason to sound its siren yet.

“Why don’t I come into town with you?” offered the young man’s mum. “It’s my day off and I can give you a hand. Maybe hold an umbrella so you don’t have to put your hood up?”

The look of horror on his teenage face forced an apology.

Round the Plain, over Magdalen Bridge and onto the High Street – blue light on.

There’s a café on the other side of the road that does really nice chocolate croissants. ‘A Taste of France’ or something like that, even though it’s run by a friendly Turkish family. They sometimes give the young man free baklava.

The pedestrian crossing is just outside the Market entrance near the ever-popular cookie stall. There’s a wobbly kerb stone on the High Street pavement which he is careful to avoid.

Lights turn red. The car should sound its siren now.

He listens closely. Heavy raindrops drum on his cagoule. Sounds are muffled but engines are in neutral so it must be safe to cross. At least to halfway.

The police car swerves into the right-hand lane to pass the stationary traffic. Now it sounds its siren.

Too late for the young man.

He doesn’t stand a chance and stops breathing by the time he is wheeled into the John Radcliffe Hospital. The last thing he ever saw was an umbrella spoke.

Daily post: Eyes

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