Sunday, March 27, 2016

two sticks and a wheelchair

I walked a few blocks to visit friends. The midday bright and warm and beautiful and promising. A storm is a few days off so we're making the best of it while it lasts. Most people are inside, though, most likely enjoying Easter with family. There are a few well dressed pedestrians on Acoma and Bannock milling about to and from the museum. A samurai exhibition is advertised.

On my way on this block at this moment at a bright sunlit corner with nothing at all going on in that moment a small man is seated in wheelchair facing the sun. He looks like hell. His two front teeth are out. His feet are wrapped in new clean blue hospital feet protectors, the sort people wear when casts are removed and they're shuffling around on wounded feet. It is the sort of setup one hurries by to avoid and ignores whatever they say, most likely a request for a handout. As I walk toward his direction I arc closer to him sitting there instead of curve away from him as I pass by. He mumbles something to me about walking carefully. I don't hear him exactly but he's talking about me walking.







I'm already walking carefully as can be. I'm measuring every single step. A good 90% of my thoughts are devoted to processing each step. I'm having a good time. "Watch this" I say bragging. I lift my sticks and take three well placed steps, "See? Huh? What? I got this. I got this whole walking thing down." I turn back and show off my walking skill. To a guy in a wheelchair. "See?"

The man launches into a bitter tirade about how people are not taking care of him. How he needs help but the people who provide help don't provide it to him. He curses the city hospital nearby just  five or so blocks away out of sight. He complains about the nearby men's shelter not being a hospital that can care for his feet. I ask, "Can you walk usually?" "Not like this!" He complains his shelter tells him he must leave by 6:00 a.m. no matter what even if it's a blizzard. He curses the nearby courthouse (nice civic building they light up extravagantly all the time). He curses the Hospital, the nearby men's shelter, City Hall, the capitol building and the Veterans Association and tells me in hostile language how he wants to go full on Timothy McVeigh and blow up all those non-helping bastards all at the same time. Kaboom.

I agreed.

I told him a lot of people harbor the same sentiment. I commiserated. I told him I am aware of all those places he mentioned and he's right and sometimes it's even worse because they make rules that nobody can abide. I get him. He's right. I described my travails match his own in some details.

People are waiting, I must go.

He said automatically but still innocently and sincerely and sweetly, his tone changed as I'm leaving, "Have a happy Easter."

Realizing as he said it how incongruent his adieu was with the full content of his discourse that preceded it and realizing by having it mirrored that he's poisoning a stranger's mind and doing that on a holy holiday, he abruptly switched to preacher mode, to balance it,  and instructed me gravely to always forgive all who trespass against me as I am already forgiven my own sins and trespasses I've done against others. He delivered a portion of the Lord's prayer if not exactly in Christian canon form, recalling his teaching, in that moment of his automatic departing phrase. He fixed his own thoughts right there in his chair in the sun remembering we can forgive and we can heal.

It's not at all odd that he holds these two extreme opposites simultaneously and acts them out. He's human he doesn't have to make sense or be consistent.


"Yes, I will. Thank you for that." 

26 comments:

MamaM said...

Being heard matters, as does being regarded, mirrored, seen and to even the smallest degree, for a brief moment in time, known.

I like the drawing. I like the story even more.

Thank you for this and that.

rcocean said...

Excellent.

Trooper York said...

That was beautiful Chip.

Thank you.

You are a brilliant essayist.

It is an honor to be on the same blog as you.

Dad Bones said...

Wonderful story from the street. You go places and see more with those two canes than most of us do with two good legs.

BleachBit-and-Hammers said...

Exactly, Dad Bones. Living in the heart of the city...

Wonderful story Chip -thanks for sharing.

Is it just me, or has the homeless problem exploded over the last 7 years?

ricpic said...

Do these places really kick their inmates out at 6 AM? Yikes. Okay, not inmates, patients.

ricpic said...

Residents?

deborah said...

A beautiful Easter homily. Love the drawing.

Meade said...

You know what's even better than forgiving? Forgetting.

Trooper York said...

Then there are the people who ruin it.

Chip Ahoy said...

No, Ricpic, not residents. One of the things he said was, "I've been dewing with for six years."

Meade said...

I wonder if the guy in the wheelchair might be happier if he had a job. For instance, he could be a greeter somewhere. Or he could wave glow sticks at construction sites.

Trooper York said...

Chip your compassion and talent shine through in this post. Don't listen to idiots who want to turn it into something else. That is why we left the other place.

They insist on bringing it back here.

Meade said...

What makes you think Chip needs or even wants your condescending virtue signaling BS, Trooper. He's always been able to handle his own issues without big strong you riding in to save the day.

Trooper York said...

If I were you I would delete Lawnboy at all times. He brings nothing to the table. But that is of course up to you.

Sorry to bring our fight onto your post. I think it would be best to delete both of us.

Meade said...

Oh great — now that Trooper is embarrassed by his own condescending BS, he orders Chip to delete his embarrassing comments. Very dishonest, Troop. Tsk.

Chip Ahoy said...

Mead is not bothering me. I'm reading his posts in a friendly voice imagining sitting across a cafe table, and read them as valid. I like Mead. And I like you too. You can kick each other under the table all you like and throw biscuits at each other and it won't bother me one single bit. I like you both.

Sidebar: I keep noticing Mead comments held up in filter. I don't know why that keeps happening. Sorry about that. Intend no interference. They are dots on the dashboard. When I look and see two or three I wonder wtf? They're all perfectly innocent.

Trooper York said...

Just know that my admiration for your talent is sincere as I have expressed to you both privately and publicly. I wish I could think the way you do in some of your artistic posts. I am more verbal and not able to envision the stuff you do with your art.


Meade said...

*gaa..ag*

Meade said...

"I'm reading his posts in a friendly voice imagining sitting across a cafe table, and read them as valid"

There you go, Troop — the answer to your hysterical question, WHY DO THERE EVEN HAVE TO BE PEOPLE LIKE MEADE IN THE WORLD WHO GET IN MY SAFE SPACES AND BOTHER ME WITH THE VERY AIR HE BREATHES???

I come here to entertain Chip. And Lem.

So there.

Trooper York said...

You come here to troll Lawnboy. The same way Mary trolls your meal tickets blog. You bring the miasma that most of us that post here tried to leave behind in the other place.

Why don't you get ball cancer and die.

Meade said...

"Why don't you get ball cancer and die."

Why such a wimpy ask, Sniveler York? Why not wish big — a riot stew in Madison followed by a huge Muslim terrorist attack that wipes Wisconsin off the map leading to a thousand years of Trumpianism.

And then I get ball cancer and die.

It'll be like you died and went to heaven.

Meade said...

By the way, Chip, your story reminded me of my favorite Steven Wright joke that takes off on that famous Helen Keller quote.

“I was sad because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet. So I said, "Got any shoes you’re not using?”

Chip Ahoy said...

Oh, Steven Wright! Ha. I was visualizing Emo Philips saying that.

Meade said...

Yeah, very Emo Philips. LOVE Emo Philips! And, more recently, Michael Ian Black.

MamaM said...

He fixed his own thoughts right there in his chair in the sun remembering...

I experienced this story as a present-day Easter reminder regarding the power to remember, believe, connect and experience something that looks and feels like fixing, change, healing, transformation and the reconciliation of thoughts with memory.

Thank you again. It reads through as wonderfully the 2nd and 3rd time as the first.