This is something that happened last year, and at first I felt so terrible about it that I didn’t want to talk about it, and then I forgot about it, but for some reason I was reminded of it recently.
It was back when the boys were still two, just before they turned three, and we took a family outing to the park. We had just started taking the bus as a family, and back then, the key to getting on the bus was one person holding the boys and the other holding the girl and swiping the card. This time, I was holding the boys. When the bus pulled up, I had a boy on each hip and went to step into the two-foot space between myself and the bus door, and collided with an old woman on her bike. She fell to the ground and I had a bad cut on my hand from whatever part of the bike one of my hands holding one of the boys had hit. The thing is, this is common. Not the colliding-with-old-women part. The people-squeezing-their-bikes-between-passengers-and-buses part. I felt such a mix of emotion. I felt horrible that the old woman fell, but when she looked at me with anger in her eyes (no one has ever looked at me like I was such a bad person), I felt angry, too. I felt like I was there, doing the best I could with my two boys, obviously had my peripheral vision blocked by two blonde heads, stepping into a space that seconds before had been perfectly clear and that really should have stayed clear. And I had just been reading articles about why Chinese people don’t help each other, why a toddler can be run over multiple times by cars and no one intervenes, why an old man can lay bleeding on the sidewalk and people just stand around and watch – because good Samaritans are seen as people with guilty consciences and are the prime target for lawsuits from the family members of the victim. I was scared and embarrassed and angry and half my family was already on the bus and I just said, I’m sorry, got on, too, and left. For a month afterward I wondered if anyone was going to go to the trouble of figuring out which foreigner perpetrated the act and come after me for money, but of course nothing happened. I feel so torn about the whole situation. Part of me feels so awful that I knocked an old woman off her bike, and I can still remember the accusing look in her eyes. I just wanted to put the boys down and pick her bike up and help her up and tell her, I’m so sorry. I didn’t see where I was going. I’m not a bad person. It was an accident. I didn’t want to hurt you. But I just walked away. But the other part of me feels so defensive and blames the woman for putting herself between me and the bus when I had my hands so full and couldn’t see where I was going. The fact that my kids could be run over by a motor bike or a tuk-tuk when they step from the bus to the curb fills me with irritation. Why did it have to be all my fault?