my feet are wet

(a beautiful, old gnarly tree in genoa, nv)

my feet are wet and i met a quadriplegic once. he apologized for even asking, but did i have any spare change? guilty hands felt the pile of coins in my pockets. isn't that more of an insult? to give him a handful of pennies? thinking there were a few silver pieces in there, i reached for it. blushing, i told him that was all of it. no doubt to make myself feel better about the situation than to ease his weary soul. we stood on that street corner for ten minutes, talking about how hard it is for a person like him to get along in this world.

he was a struggling writer. his wife, a fellow quadriplegic, had left him for a better something. it was too hard for her, her troubles were doubled up being with him and it was easier to live that particular life alone. plus, as he tells me amidst the passer-bys staring at us but mostly at him, she was more successful with her writing. she had out-published him and from his scowl and tone of voice appeared late night fights about money and egos. i wondered for a moment if her paraplegia allowed her to throw things in his general direction, across their dimly lit apartment, or if she was limited to scornful verbal abuse.

this town isn't for the handicapped, he said. he wrote a passionate article about abuse and violence against women to never see it gather an audience. he blames the paralysis, his situation, his useless body for his inability to get his words in print.

i cringed when he asked me why i was here, what brought me to a town like this one. with my guilt, almost any answer to that question would've given me a better quality of life than what he had spent the last ten minutes describing to me. but i told him my story - graduate school, music teacher, all of it. he asked me questions about my own situation with genuine curiosity and i told him the truth about everything. there's certainly no use in pretending i am worse off than i really am. i didn't want to be like so many of my peers, feeling it necessary to prove they are struggling using untruths about how hard, how poor, how tough IT is. i wasn't about to try and gain sympathy for my situation from a seemingly homeless man confined to an old, rickety motorized wheelchair whose fingers are the only mildly controllable part of his body. he seemed to sense this and as we finally crossed the street, told me to continue down the path i've chosen. i walked slow as he spoke with earnest about making good decisions and more importantly, getting out of this town.

i gave him directions to the local shelter and walked with him part of the way there, parting ways when we made it through the construction zones and were in sight of his destination. i told him to take care of himself and he told me to do the same.

walking around the biggest little city during tonight's snow flurries made me think of him. with hopes he was inside somewhere warm reading an article he had written. the only other people on the street were homeless men pulling dirty coats a little tighter, searching for doorways to block the wind or any relief they could find from the cold - just these men and one young hawaiian t-shirt, cargo shorts adorned gentleman carrying a large, stuffed, fuzzy basketball recently won under the big top in Circus, Circus no doubt. i chuckled cynically at the juxtaposition. the young man proudly displaying his prize to anyone that would pay attention, his only audience a handful of people who would rather eat with the money he threw away trying to win something so useless. i wondered what the quadriplegic man would have to say about the young man in his weather-inappropriate clothing. i wonder what he would say about many things. my shoes don't keep out the snow, my feet are wet and i met a man once.


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