Near Waterloo, I stopped at a dark crossroads, unsure of the path ahead. I turned and saw two figures coming towards me. The man was my height and about my age. He spoke loudly to the woman by his side, his accent clipped and penetrating. Perhaps I shouldn’t have interrupted but I wanted help crossing the road, so I said Excuse me guys, and the man said No, thank you, and they floated off into the darkness.
I smiled. I had never asked for help crossing the road before. Perhaps they didn’t see my cane or know what it was for. Perhaps my tone had been too I’m-going-to-ask-you-for-money. I’m sure they would have been mortified if they had known. The chance to help a blind person cross the road. The quintessential good deed.
The Spanish verb ignorar is not quite the same as ignore in English: it doesn’t primarily mean the purposeful withdrawal of attention, a looking away or closing of the ears. Instead, the person who ignores exists in a state of unknowing, an innocent kind of ignorance. I like to think the couple ignored me in that Spanish sense.
I stood listening on the curb. I could hear no cars, no quiet, weaving bikes, so I set the tip of my cane onto the road and waited a moment before stepping out. I walked slowly across, wading through the tarry darkness. If weaving bikes were to come, I thought, in which language would they ignore me?
The road became a passage flanked by stalls. Dim orange lanterns hung from awnings. The shapes of people flitted past as I pushed on through the darkness.
These things so often come in pairs. I saw a staircase ahead of me, the one I needed. As I started climbing, another couple passed by and the man leaned in towards me. His voice was low and rich. He asked if I needed any assistance, if I knew where I was going. I said, Thank you for the offer, I appreciate it, but I know where I am now. He nodded and moved on, sweeping up the stairs, his white trousers shining so brightly in the lantern light that even I couldn’t ignore them.