The evil men do lives after them;
The good is often interred with their bones.
Julius Caesar, Act 3, Scene 2,
The Veterans Taxi driver who struck me down and sped away is probably dead by now. I saw him for a brief moment, but what he did to me lives on in my bones.
I was about fourteen or fifteen. Just as I feed on television now, I lived for the movies back then, Even though we were not permitted by law to get into the movie theatres in Montreal until we were sixteen, my Pop and I managed to get me past the system. I went to the movies as much as three times a week, with my dad or on my own. I hungered for more.
That fateful day, I was pestering my mother to let me go to the movies at the Rialto Theatre on Park Avenue. My mother didn't want me to go. I nagged and nagged until she finally gave up. In frustration, she said something like, "Go! Break your head !".
With some trepidation, I headed for Park Avenue and took the streetcar to the Rialto.
It was on my way back home that my mother's unintentional "curse" struck. I got off the streetcar at the corner of Park Avenue and St. Joseph and started across Park Avenue on the green light, heading east toward home.
If only I had known then what I know now. A Veterans Taxi coming from the west on St. Joseph Blvd. turned left and crossed Park Avenue at full pace. I was three-quarters of the way to the east corner when he suddenly struck me. His side-view mirror struck my right arm and I was flat on the ground.
The driver continued on at full pace for several yards before stopping. As I started to pull myself up, he opened his door and looked back. When he saw I wasn't dead, he slammed his door and took off in flight.
I think it was about March. I was wearing my new plum colour fall coat. It was dirty. My nylons were ripped. My knees were skinned. People standing on the corner wanted to call an ambulance for me. I thanked them and refused. My mother had warned me not to go. I was so afraid she would blame me.
When I got home, my mother was napping on a cot in the bedroom. When she woke and saw me all messed up she blamed me for being careless and irresponsible. I could no longer contain my anguish. I blurted out, "A taxi hit me!". My mother shot up in alarm. I told her what had happened.
But nothing ever came of it. My family was not one to cause waves. It wasn't until months later, that I discovered a hard fat lump in my arm. My mother urged me to go to see Dr. Harry Ballon, our family physician who was the top surgeon at the Jewish General Hospital. I was afraid. I was always afraid of doctors, needles, the antiseptic smell of hospitals and clinics. I was especially afraid of Dr.Ballon.
Many years later, when I told Dr. Ballon's wife how I feared him, she said he was a gentle man, "a teddy bear." But I was always afraid of him. Always impeccably dressed and groomed, Dr. Ballon seemed severe to me - a superior human being. He held life or death in his hands. All doctors do. In my mind, if Dr. Ballon didn't like me, I would die.
I didn't want to go to see Dr,. Ballon. Then my mother said the words that changed my life forever: "You have to see Dr. Ballon. It could be cancer."
I did go to see Dr. Ballon then, and for years afterward. He refused to remove the lump. He told me he would "not cut a young girl for nothing". He said it was a benign tumor and we would just keep an eye on it. If it was "benign", why did we have to keep an eye on it?
But from that day on I lived with black fear and depression, waiting for cancer. I slept to escape the terror.
I still have that lump in my arm but, thank God, it never changed. But in 1993, the fears that darkened my youth became reality and I have lived with cancer ever since. The fears started by that Veterans Taxi driver were prophetic.
I am so grateful to my doctors and medicine that I LIVE with cancer. But the fear never goes away.
That Veterans Taxi driver is probably dead now, probably of old age. Did he ever stop to think how he damaged my life the day he struck me down and ran away? Did he ever tell anyone what he had done?
The evil men do lives after them.