Saturday, June 20, 2009

right in the middle of the second ring

So I received an email from a guy named Tim that I used to work with at "the fucked up place run by crazy people". Tim has a band here in town and the email was announcing that his band was playing tonight. I believe the email said, "the devil will be let loose tonight" or something like that. Tim is an interesting person. He is probably in his 40s. He has dyed jet black hair and he looks a little like Ichabod Crane or Abe Lincoln or even Michael Gira--the big adam's apple, sunken features, big eyes and somewhat sallow skin. For some reason Chinese girls think he is super attractive (for the record, my Chinese teacher once described Abe Lincoln as her 'dream lover') . He is from New Jersey and he is a full rocker. Tim is sort of negative and grumpy, but you don't have to go too far underneath to see a pretty gentle and friendly person--but he is a bit uptight. He used to tell us stories at lunch about being a victim of road rage or about a documentary he has made about the Beijing rock scene or how he is all over posters in Kunming because he once stared in a promo video for Kunming city. He would tell us these stories while he chewed on the same piece of food for much more than the recommended 100 chews. Once, I looked him up on myspace and to my surprise there was a picture of him in a rainbow wig on stage--I expected to see a screaming goth man more akin to the Headless Horseman rather than Gallagher. You can imagine that I was eager to see this enigma of a man in action on stage. The email said that there were several bands and it started at 9pm.

We live sort of far away from the club where it was to go down and it was already 9pm, so we decided to take a cab to the show instead of the subway. We found a cab easily outside of our apartment building. The cabbie was friendly and enjoyed practicing his English with us. That is always nice, because it is an opportunity for us to trade language. I have learned some very practical Chinese from cab drivers. As we started off, we got on the 2nd ring road near our house heading north. Then the big road turns east going toward the Lama Temple. The Lama Temple always surprises me when I drive by it. It just pops out of all of the steel and cement--so much bigger and more beautiful than anything around it. So, tonight as we are heading toward the Lama Temple there is a traffic jam. This is a pisser--what if we miss the band!? I can tell I have been living in Beijing for a while because I am starting to get a little impatient with the cabbie who is being polite and letting others change lanes (really to no avail) in front of him. At this point we are going maybe 5 miles an hour. The speed limit is probably 65 miles an hour. I start cursing under my breath a little but I can see that up ahead near the temple, the traffic starts to speed up to normal speed--just after the flashing police lights. Beijing has been setting up DUI check points all around the city and it is not that weird for them to stop a whole 4 or 5 five lanes to check everyone. So as we approach, I can see the policeman with something in his hand--it is a radio. There is a newer black car stopped in the middle of the road. I start to think that someone is getting arrested..........then I see it.

He was laying in the middle of the 2nd ring road. Face down, arms spread out legs spread out like he was on a cross. He was covered in blood. He was not moving and there was no person attending to him. Right by the car stopped in the middle of the road was a handsome man in his late 50s--the driver. He had such a helpless and distressed look on his face as he tried to explain to someone on his mobile phone--maybe his wife--what was going on. I see no bike in the road or motorcycle or anything--only the stopped car, the driver and the body. By the time I register all of this, I try to tell B not to look, but I hear her reaction.

Soon after, we are going 65 miles an hour again. B, the cabbie and myself are all quiet. No one says anything for most of the rest of the ride.

When we get out of the cab I ask the driver to be safe--he smiles and knows what I mean. B and I talk about how it seems important to take in and remember what we saw. It is almost our duty as humans. I feel upset for the dead man, but more upset for the driver. I mean, if a man is without transportation and is in the middle of basically an interstate, it was probably just a dumb move on the pedestrian's part. Maybe the guy was drunk, or maybe he was trying to take a shortcut and cross the road, or maybe he was trying to kill himself. It doesn't matter. Even if it isn't the driver's fault, he HAS to carry the burden of being a cause-and that makes me feel sad for the survivor of the incident.

We get to the club at about 10:10. There is a generic sounding metal band playing. There is no sign of Tim. I send Tim a text message asking if he has played yet. Tim texts back and says he has already played. We assume he has left the club so we start to leave. As we are exiting, Tim is coming in the door with, of course, a very pretty Chinese girl. B and I decide to stay and talk to Tim for a few minutes and he introduces us to his girlfriend and his friends. Tim basically says nothing to us and goes to watch a band. How strange--we haven't seen him in 6 months and he doesn't really even pause to talk to us. I tell his friend that we saw a dead body in the middle of the 2nd ring. He responds saying he has seen 6 or 7 in the 4 years he has lived in Beijing. I guess it is part of living in a crowded city. The band is too loud to talk. B and I decide to leave. As we ride home on the same road, I try not to look where the incident was but my eyes defy me. There is nothing to see and the drivers going full speed over the spot have no idea what has happened. I think how it is kind of nice that it happened so close to the temple. Maybe the man was a Buddhist and maybe the Lama Temple held a lot of meaning to him. B and I talk about how it seems that our only purpose for going out tonight was to witness.


fb said...

This is very sad. It reminds me of a drive home to Auburn from Nashville one snowy Christmas vacation. We were moving very slowly on the Tennessee bridge when we pass debris and a crumpled bridge guard. Then about 10 feet away is a giant red patch of snow.

Horror. Then feeling extra cautious we kept driving.

I did not feel like a witness though, there were no people there to witness only my imagination left to run wild.

elephant rob said...

Yikes. This post and FB's comment make me extremely grateful that I've never witnessed anything like this. Which is probably due to sheer luck given how much driving I've done in my life and how many aftermaths of accidents I have seen.