I can see clearly the pained expression on his face, with his furrowed brow and downturned mouth. It seems not to be caused by the pink Peugeot with eye-lashed headlights, that just seconds ago knocked him clear of his wheelchair, but the apparent distress of the driver as she rushes to him, her face distorted in horror.
‘I am so sorry! I didn’t see you. Are you ok?’
‘Don’t fret, my dear’, he says to her, ‘I’m absolutely fine. It’s not very well lit in here, and I’m afraid I’m not that visible in this thing’. He points to the wheelchair, lying at a peculiar angle, but with no evident damage. ‘Maybe some reflectors, or flashing lights, are in order!’
He untangles his legs from beneath him, and throws them down roughly. His trousers lie slack, outlining two skeletal legs and knobbly knees. The material is bunched up on the one leg, revealing a fading tartan sock, and a pale ankle. When he sees me striding over, my eyes on his limp lower limbs, he hurriedly pushes the leg down, a fleeting look of embarrassment on his face. He must think them unsightly.
He turns his attention back to the young lady, who is hovering, mouth agape, waiting for somebody to tell her what she can do to make things right.
‘No need to look so horrified; I’m perfectly fine. I needed to get out of that chair anyway and stretch my legs.’
Another poor joke, but at least he’s trying. It makes me chuckle, but his attempt to inject some humour into the situation looks to only have added to the young lady’s angst. He sees this, and lets out a silent sigh.
A cold, echoing honk reminds us all where we are. Another driver is trying to manoeuvre around us, but the Peugeot is blocking his way. Through the windscreen I can see him gesticulating, oblivious to our current situation. This new variable in the equation threatens to overwhelm the young lady, as she turns her head from the crippled man on the ground, to the incessant honker, and back again.
The man on the ground takes charge.
‘Young lady, I know you have somewhere to be, and I cannot tolerate that noise much longer, so please, just take off. Don’t worry about me. This gentleman will see me right.’
His gaze returns to me. He smiles, his eyes displaying absolute certainty in his words.
After a barrage of profuse apology, barely subdued by her palpable relief, the lady gets back in her car and drives away. The driver behind gives us an apologetic look as he rolls past the scene.
I approach the man on the ground, and upright his wheelchair. He reaches up his hand, and firmly grasps mine. I lift him carefully, thinking him frail, yet when within reach of the chair, he launches himself towards it, and effortlessly lowers into place.
‘Thanks for that, sonny.’ he says, setting his short, salt and pepper hair back into place, with a comb that seems to have materialised from nowhere. He looks about 50, but his wiry frame appears much healthier sitting up than sprawled on the concrete.
‘You’re welcome.’ I’m curious about his knowing look. I can’t imagine why anybody wouldn’t help him in this situation, but the look he gave me seemed to suggest a deeper awareness. I wonder who he is.
‘Oh! How rude of me; my name is Angus Moss. It’s a pleasure to meet you. And what’s your name, sonny?’
Did he just read my mind?!
‘Erm, nice to meet you, Mr Moss. I’m Robert. Robert Robinson.’
‘Are you hurt at all? You hit the ground pretty hard.’
‘Just my pride, and a few bruises. I’ve been through much worse’, he winks at me. ‘I’m more concerned about that young lady. What a terrible driver! And what a hideous car! Eyelashes… It’s abominable.’
Ha. I like this guy.
‘I sense a great power in you, Robert. And I sense you have many questions, to which I have answers. How about we discuss it over some food? My treat.’ He sits back in his seat, his head held high, and fingers interlaced on his lap. He has an infectious smile, and kind eyes that never leave mine.
What does he mean, a great power? I feel something, but I don’t feel powerful. And how does he know I have all these questions? What if he is a mind reader? I’m not sure I want somebody sifting through my thoughts. But, my curiosity gets the better of me…
‘OK, I’m up for some food.’