Haunting Memory

Haunting memories–I think we all have them, but some stick with you more than others. Of all the crazy things I’ve done in my former life, the one that stands out the most had nothing to do with drugs or alcohol. Back in the early 90s when I was an avid Marathoner I worked in Manhattan, but lived in NJ. About two days before the New York City Marathon, I left work early to pick up my race number at the Sheraton Hotel on the upper West side. This is a very upscale area, and that evening there were loads of police, tourists, busboys, hotel staff, and marathoners picking up their numbers, in and outside the hotel. Since I lived in NJ, I was always very conscious of the bus schedule, so I was in a big rush to hop the subway back to the bus terminal. It was about 5:30 in late October so it was dark and chilly, and all I wanted to do was get home when suddenly I saw a large plastic bag lying on the sidewalk. I just assumed it was garbage, but when I looked closer, I was appalled to see that it was a thin black woman who was literally “wearing” the bag as her clothes. I remember standing over her, looking around trying to see if anyone else saw this, trying to decide if someone would take ownership of this discovery. I grappled with the thought of trying to find a cop to get this woman some help, but in the end I decided I was in too much of a rush to do this simple act of humanity. So, I just left her there, assuming that someone else would find her. I remember walking down the dark street towards the subway station, all the while feeling guilty and ashamed of myself. The whole time I was walking, I kept wanting to turn around and go back, because I knew I was wrong, but I didn’t. The whole time I rode home on the bus, I kept thinking that I should have gotten help, but it was too late by then. That’s the same mentality that prevents people from calling the cops when they see someone being attacked, or let someone lay in the road, thinking someone else will step up to the plate. I will never know what happened to this woman, but all these years later, this haunting memory still causes me shame.

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