It was a beautiful evening to be out on the job. The setting was the Belle Haven Club, where I covered a lecture. I was on my way to my car when it happened. The light was still bright on the water with the boats bobbing about on their tethers.
My car was parked by a tall hedge protecting the grand manse of a hedge funder who comes from my hometown of Memphis. As I walked in the evening air I saw his house as a modern day Monticello, and I was thinking about his extraordinary duck decoy collection -- I'd seen it exhibited in a Memphis museum-- and of how I'd like to write about it.
I tripped and fell. My head hit the asphalt. My left cheekbone and temple felt the shock. My head felt like it had been hit out of the ballpark. My handbag contents were strewn across the pavement. I groped to raise myself. I was alive. I struggled to sit up, reaching out to gather my things. I noticed I was alone. No cars approached. The tennis players had left. The diners were hidden on the terrace.
It was the white-painted speed bump in the road. One of those high-pitched ones. I'd tripped on it. How could I have not seen it? I half stood, my head still reeling. And then I saw him running towards me, all in his tennis whites.
"I saw you fall," he said. "Let me help you."
"Thank you," I murmured, taking his arm in relief.
"Let me take you to the emergency room," he urged.
"No thanks, I'm OK. I need to get home."
I told him I was a reporter covering an event at the Club. He said he was the guest of a member and had just finished a tennis game when he spotted me. We were nearing my car by the hedge. I had one hand holding the side of my head, feeling the ache.
"You really shouldn't be driving," he said.
"I'm OK -- I really have to get home."
"Let me look at your head," he said.
"There's no blood. But I see a bruise. Let me take you to the emergency room," he added.
I assured him I felt able to drive home. The distance was not great.
Suddenly he said, "Wait here, I'll be right back."
I leaned against my car, collecting myself, when he was returned instantly holding cold bottles of water and a Coke can.
"Here, place this cold Coke can on the side of your face."
The cold felt good against the sore head. He stood guard as I stood pressing the can against my cheekbone and temple.
"Let me drive you home," he insisted.
I deferred again. He watched me closely as I fitted myself into the driver's seat. I thanked him again and drove off, holding the Coke to the place of impact as the other hand guided my car slowly over those high white bumps. How could I have not seen that obstruction in the road? How could I have been so distracted? My focus had traveled far from where it should have been -- on the foot in front of me.
As I drove toward the Post Road, I was aware of a red car behind me. As I turned onto the road, I saw the car turn too. It was the tennis player. He must live in the same direction I do, I thought.
The coldness of the can was still there along my cheekbone as I made the various turns toward my street. I was feeling shook up but all systems appeared to be working. And then I was at the stop sign at the corner of my street and there he was in my rear view mirror. He was following me home.
I slowly parked and his car came alongside.
"Are you OK," he asked.
"Yes sir, I'm fine and I thank you again for your help."
He gave me a smile and drove away. And I had forgotten to get his name. The days have passed and I have no bruise, and no pain. I believe it was because of that cold Coke can that the smart, kind tennis player provided.
So I send this story out into the air, a story of thanks to that good samaritan -- whoever his is.