You Don’t Know Me

In which Sarah discovers how hard it is to be a good Samaritan. Artwork by Sarah.


I think about you sometimes.

I try not to. Sometimes you appear out of nowhere in front of me. You do what you did then. It happens again and again, like a video stuck on repeat.

I’m in that car again. You knock on the window.  You, like any other beggar, plead; trying to appeal to me. I look at you blankly.

You unshroud your breast from your sari. It’s bloody, mangled. I wasn’t sure if it’d been hacked off or if you had some kind of disease or if you’d just been fucking with me for some cash (I know you weren’t). That shade of red, of your blood– it is the only colour, besides that of your skin that I can vividly remember from this scene. I think you were wearing a turquoise sari. I don’t know.

Sometimes I picture you with a nose piercing. Sometimes I think you’re about my age. Sometimes you look old and weary.

All that really lingers after these years is a deep scarlet, seeping from the moment and into my mind.

I didn’t tell anybody. I watched even more passively than I did before, as you covered yourself again, shook your head and walked away. The car soon drove away, as all surrounding traffic inched forward through the people and animals and madness. The repeated beeping of the car horns continued to echo through the city. It was as if you’d never existed.

I have no proof you were ever there. All I have is a painful memory, one in which I didn’t do anything to help you. You were a woman who was desperate enough to expose herself to a complete stranger in a conservative Muslim country.

You thought, foreigner = cash. You thought, look. You thought, please.

I had no thoughts.

I widened my eyes when I saw it. I didn’t make a sound. I looked at you, struck dumb. Our eyes met, and you waited for those seconds that dragged into eternity.

I had no money to give to you. I could have nudged my mum next to me. But I didn’t. I don’t know why. It haunts me when I think of you. I doubt you’re still alive. I doubt I really could have helped you with whatever my mum happened to have in her pocket. We could have taken you to a hospital. Yet would it have been clean? Would they have been able to help you? Would they have made it worse?

These are the thoughts I have now, and I feel pathetic for it. I don’t want to placate myself by thinking there’s nothing I could have done. I did nothing. I could have done anything, besides nothing.  I didn’t.

I didn’t. I didn’t. I didn’t.

Me, when I sat next to my mother, the woman who gives a good portion of her money to others. She once gave a girl in Wellington $20, hoping she would be able to afford a bed for the night.

I don’t deserve her. I don’t deserve my privileged life. You would know that.

You, the woman who didn’t know me at all. You would know me in ways that no one else ever has.


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