Ten Minutes

by Veera Hiranandani

The news story mentioned in this essay is a fictionalized composite of the many horrific news stories we read about every day. However, the breakfast mentioned, consisting of cantaloupe and rye toast, really happened.

"...I can't see any blood..."

I read an article during my Sunday breakfast of cantaloupe and rye toast about three men who came into a bank with rifles and opened fire. They killed fifteen people. A picture underneath the article features a man lying on his side. He was shot during the robbery and collapsed. The teller counter obscures his legs. Though the picture is a close up, I can't tell where he was shot, I can't see any blood, and he does not look like heās in pain. He looks away from the camera, probably toward the robbers. He has the polite, but impatient look of a person who has something to say, but is waiting for another person to finish talking.

A woman crouches over him, touching his left shoulder with only her fingertips and I wonder if he can feel her hand. The caption says, Jack Freedman, shooting victim comforted by a colleague ten minutes before his death. The next picture shows the man, Jack Freedman, with his head face down on the ground, ambulance workers covering him with a white blanket. The caption says, Jack Freedman, dead, after being shot twice in the back.



I glance between the two pictures, ten minutes separating them -- 600 seconds. I search the first picture again. His mouth parts and the whites of his eyes flash at me. The woman gazes in the same direction, a distant look on her face. If I had been that woman, I would have placed my hand on his shoulder and squeezed it hard. I would have spoken to him in a low, calming voice or maybe even sang to him. I would have ripped off my shirt and wrapped it around him, tying it tightly over his wound, holding in all his blood. I would have kissed his forehead and smelled his hair. He may not have died if I had been there holding on to him. Or maybe he would have died and there I would be, my hand on the shoulder of a dead man, my ripped clothes covered in blood, my mouth open with nothing to say.

Could I have saved him? Could anyone have? These are the questions that trouble me while I eat my breakfast. I look into Jack's eyes again, studying what a man's eyes look like ten minutes before he dies. I get up and look in the mirror. His eyes look like mine, brown, open, alive.

"...take a picture of my breakfast half eaten..."





I get up, fish my camera out of my desk drawer, and take a picture of my breakfast half eaten, my free hand in the picture holding the spoon I use to scoop out cantaloupe flesh. Then, ten minutes later, I take another picture of the empty plate with only crumbs and a scraped cantaloupe rind left on it. I will develop both pictures and write underneath the second one, "I ate off this plate ten minutes ago." I will frame these pictures in painted black wood and hang them on my wall over my kitchen table. When friends come over I will show them the pictures, just so they know the pictures are there -- proof that I had been here, eating alone in my apartment. I will do this just in case anything ever happens to me and someone I love, someone that I haven't met, but will someday meet and love, will stare at the first picture, at the wet, glistening food and feel hopeful that he might see me again. How could I be gone if I had just eaten a meal ten minutes ago?


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