It was to him a terrifying and thunderous waterfall. There he stood, hanging on the precipice. The grey lines rolled in a continuous and steady motion; it would not wait for his fear. Two young construction workers in fluorescent orange vests stepped past him, strong and confident. It made him feels his years all the more and embarrassment overwhelmed him, prompting him to hunch his shoulders further. He was old and afraid of an escalator.
Behind him, a young girl stood, unsure of what to do. She could not walk by him as if he were not there, yet she was too afraid to approach. But the woman behind her was not afraid. She said to her husband, ‘I think that man needs help.’ She peered over at him again and gave a quick nod, as if affirming this in her mind. With confidence, she strode forward and reached out to him.
The man felt sure hands hand on his right arm.
‘Are you ok? These things can be tricky something, but don’t worry, there’s really nothing to worry about. Here, take my arm, yes, and let’s just take this one step.’
It was over in a moment; the step was taken and the man stared in amazement. The woman held his arm for the entire length of the trip and and her husband stood with her. They spoke to the man on the way down and behind them, the quiet girl listened. She heard the voice of the old man, frail and tentative. ‘Everything’s changed so much. I-I guess I haven’t been out much since…’ He trailed off.
The woman smiled and patted his arm. He didn’t need to finish the sentence. ‘Now,’ she said briskly, ‘George here is a big strong fellow and he can help you off this thing. But you can see now that there’s nothing to worry about, is there?’
George took his arm and they all stepped off together.
The girl wished she had had the confidence to do the same. Next time, she promised herself, she would.