I stood on a familiar street corner during this morning’s rush hour as the crosswalk signals flipped green; first on the opposite side of the street, and then, milliseconds later, on the traffic median. Although I made my way briskly across, my heart pulsing to keep up with my feet, the opposite signal turned red just as I was approaching the median and, seeing a little girl watching me from underneath the signal pole, of course I had to stop.
I knew this would happen. This always happens. Our bureaucratic city has a separate subdepartment to issue tourist fishing licenses but can’t manage to synchronize the crosswalk signal timers such that a fit person in their thirties could reasonably make it across the road without stopping halfway. We citizens are faced with a choice as we approach the median: wait for the next traffic cycle to complete or jaywalk in front of a six-year-old girl for whom you are the day’s impromptu role model.
But something happened this morning: as cars whooshed past me from both sides of the median, a sudden gust of wind forced air deep into my lungs, compelling my eyes shut. As I exhaled, slowly, a shaky but controlled movement, I felt the morning city crescendo alive; the wafting smell of raisin buns from the bakery on the corner, the shudder of van doors slamming at the Polizei Präsidium, the watery echo of cars rushing through the tunnel just a-ways down the street. In that glowing darkness behind my closed eyelids, I felt God or I was God: serene, omnipotent, lifted up by the scurrying of atoms and dust and exhaust billowing around me.
The crosswalk signal had turned green by the time I opened my eyes again, illuminating the block-headed silhouette of a man mid-stride. The little girl was wiggling past me, her fingers engulfed in the fist of an outstretched adult arm as they rushed towards the side of the street from where I came.