Man Down

Ahead of me walked a man.  He walked with the aid of a walker and his movements were jerky.  He had a shopping bag slung precariously over one hand, it looked as though it would tangle in his legs at any moment.  I watched with consternation as he turned towards the street, just as a black cab took the corner, a little faster than was really safe.  The bag swung in the wind created by the cab as it sailed past.  The man took a few steps out into the street, the walker pushed too far ahead as he navigated the slight incline where curb met street.  

Suddenly he was down, the walker rolling into the middle of the street, the meagre shopping bag spilling its contents into the, mercifully, quiet London street.  

I ran, I was only a few paces behind but I was spurred on by the thought of another fast moving cab.  

The man was already into a crouching position by the time I got to his side.  I leant down, and without even asking permission, thrust my arm under his shoulder and used my own bodies momentum to haul him upright.  He looked flustered and confused, but didn’t protest when I positioned myself beside him and began walking across the road.  

The mans legs obeyed as I propelled us forward, pausing when we reached the walker so that he could take possession of it again and use it to lean the majority of his weight on.  I didn’t let go of his elbow until we got to the other side of the street.  I made sure he was upright and stable on the footpath and then I quickly went and collected belongings and shopping bag.  As I made my way back to the man, a car came around the corner and I had to race the last few feet.  Amazing really, that none had been by before.  

“Oh my, thank you, young lady,” the man began as soon as I got back to where he was standing.  

I nodded and smiled, “Your welcome,” I said, as I handed him his shopping.  

“Oh, my goodness, you have no idea, thank you so much,” he continued.  

“That’s ok,” I repeated.

“Oh, I feel all shaky,” he said. 

“Do you want me to walk you home?” I asked.  I didn’t like the thought of leaving him to have another fall, this time possibly in a less quiet street.  

“Oh I couldn’t trouble you, no I’ll just rest a minute, then I’ll be ok.”

“It’s no trouble,” I said.  “I’m only on my way home myself.”

“Well, if you’re sure,” he said.  

I nodded. 

“Well I’m not going very far anyway,” he said, gesturing in the direction we were now facing.  “Just to the pub on the next corner.”

“Oh, well that’s really no trouble at all then,” I said.  

We began walking in the direction he’d indicated.  We walked in silence a few moments.  I was watching him out of the corner of my eye, watching for any signs he might fall again.  

“Do you have anything pressing you need to get home to?”  He asked as we neared the corner.  

“No not really.”

“Let me buy you a drink then.”

“Oh no,” I said shaking my head.  

“No let me,” he insisted.  “Not many people would have stopped to help someone like that and then offered to walk them home.”

“It’s no problem, really,” I said.  

“I insist,” he said.  “It’s a thank you.”

“It’s really not necessary, it’s fine, I was happy to help. 

“It’s the least I can do, just one drink, then you can be on your way.”

I started to protest again, then looked at him.  The man had a sheepish little grin on his face but his eyes were earnest.  “Really, just a pint.  I have nothing else to offer.”

I glanced down, his well worn sneakers caught my eye and then I noticed the scuff marks running down the walkers legs.  

I looked back up into his earnest eyes, his cheeks reddening with embarrassment.  We had come to a stop outside the small corner building.  Muffled chatter and the sounds of a busy Southwark pub came floating out the half open door.  

I nodded slowly.

“Sure, just the one then,” I said, and smiled.