All The Sad Men, revisited

His name was Daniel, but he answered to Dan. As in when his mom called out, “Just tell the man ‘no,’ Dan.” 

From my register I was asking him the same questions (those designed as blatant pleas to grab even more of your cash before you leave the store) that I ask everyone. I was doing so, both because we’re supposed to, and also because I didn’t want Dan to think that I saw him any differently than those customers that preceded him. Even though I did.

In fact, my interaction with him reminded me of a post that I wrote a little over two years ago now. A post remembered as I asked God to bless Dan and his family while they happily left my store. A post that I’d like to revisit here today…

She sat there, munching somewhat sloppily on her burger, occasionally spitting forth bits as she yelped out to no one in particular. And I sat there and stared. I felt bad that I was staring, but I wasn’t doing so out of rudeness. No, it was more like envy than superiority that I felt. It was more a case of “what if” than of “thank God not.” And here’s why.

Whenever I experience one living with severe special needs, I become somewhat immersed in what I imagine is their imprisonment. Their imprisonment in a world who wishes that they just weren’t around. Or at least, not quite so visible. But at the same time, I find myself jealous of their freedom. Freedom from this same world that ofttimes judges them in ignorance.

A world, mind you, that can be far more handicapped than they will ever be. A world filled with folk who care more about little dollar bills than they do each other. A world that places much more emphasis on the cut of the cloth than on the content of the character. In my very humble opinion, this world isn’t nearly good enough for people such as her. This world is a damned and empty shadow of what it could be, and I feel that we’ve all worked pretty hard at making it so. Or at the very least, sat back and simply allowed it happen.

So what of the poor girl-woman that suffered under my “not intentionally rude, but extremely rude nonetheless” stares? Why do I sometimes feel jealousy towards people like her? How could I be so crass as to make mention of the concept? Well, imprisoned as she appears, I would love to see the world through her eyes, just once. Just once to see if what I think to be true, actually is.

You see, I’m of the belief that her vision is much clearer than mine. I’m quite sure, in fact, that mine is muddled beyond the point of ever recognizing the Truth. A Truth that I believe she most likely sees quite naturally, and on a daily basis. A Truth that she may even long to share with the rest of us, if only we weren’t so ignorant to her language.

She sees the Truth, and I see only what I choose to see. And yet she is locked in the wheeled chair, while I roam free…

I suppose I should step back for a moment and let you know where my meanderings on the topic come from. I’ve no personal experience in my own family, but when I was young, I was forced (yes, I meant to say that – or at least did at the time) to volunteer at an institution that cared for people like my incidental lunch companion.

As my parents felt it was important to teach us about stewardship, part of their education to this end included a trip to a local long-term care center that managed the severest cases. As a young and unappreciative pisser, I recall hating the place when we first arrived. The stark white walls did nothing to conceal the smell of piss and medicine. The painted-over drop ceiling served more to rebound, than muffle the occasional non-sensical shout or yelp. The halls were clogged with wheel chairs, and in each sat an alien life form. A being so far removed from my knowledge of the world as to be almost comical, if only they didn’t frighten me so.

Being young, and being a pisser, and being there against my will, I decided that hatred would be my best response. Hatred towards these creatures. Hatred towards their needing my assistance. Hatred towards their being around at all. I did as I was told, but only just. How dare they make me? How dare they be here? How dare they exist?

And then, as happens so often in life, something happened. And that something was this. One of them began wailing. And not just a whimper or a sob, but an honest-to-Jesus moon-raising moan. One that would make you think that they were seeing Satan’s ghost himself. And for all I know, maybe they were. The wailing only made me feel uncomfortable. But to another, it provoked a different reaction. I can’t recall if it was an employee, a volunteer, a random passer-by, or maybe even an angel in disguise. But I do remember watching one soul walk deliberately up to the young wheelchair-entrapped wailer, and hugging them. Simply hugging them. The wails continued, but so did the hug. And eventually both were quietly put to rest. Both the hugger and the wailer were at peace. I stood there dumbfounded as the blinds were torn from my eyes, my little stupid pisser attitude backhanded to the floor.

I could physically feel myself growing up a little bit that day. One of the first of many times I’ve had the experience.

A little while later I was pushing along one of the more talkative residents who would speak and speak and speak, and occasionally even say something. At one point he looked me dead in the eye, and with no prompt or reason whatsoever, told me very lucidly the exact day it would start snowing and the exact amount – in quarter inches – that we would receive. I’m sure you already know by now that I’m going to tell you that he was exactly correct on both counts. EXACTLY. Dumb luck? Could’ve been. Dumb luck does seem to have a way of getting around. But I’d like to think that there’s something more to it.

In fact, I’d like to think that maybe – just maybe – there are certain people who are so spiritually in-tuned, so close to God, that they’re incapable of making themselves small enough as to deal with our little shambles of a “reality.” They’re exalted over the angels, but trapped on this mortal plain, and they simply can’t function at such a junior level. They need our help in this world, but only because we’ll need theirs in the next. We just don’t know it yet. They’re not “retarded,” we are. They are of a higher prominence, yet we sit smugly by and laugh at their superiority.

I know. It sounds a little too naive to be true. And that, in part, is why I wanted to jump into my lunch mate’s head. Just once I really would like to see if I’m right. Or if I’m an idiot. Or both. It’ll never happen of course. For one thing, we don’t live in a Disney movie, and switches of this nature just aren’t possible. But even if they were, I don’t feel that the swap would be a very fair one. For her, that is.

•••

I feel it’s important to note, I’m using this song today not in jest, but in respect.  I too, long for the day when all of us “sane men” are locked away, and we allow the “mad” ones to finally be free.

Happy Easter, kids.

 

All Of Him?

Unbeknownst to me, my youngest took the liberty of listening to me proof-read this, and upon its completion said, “I want to be with you – I want to see what you see.”

One who already sees far deeper than I will ever be able to, I really love that kid.

With the prompt in bold, here is this week’s Write On Edge response – I hope you enjoy…

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He didn’t smell exactly bad, mind you, but he didn’t smell entirely “right” either. It might have been the damned John Legend song in that moment spewing lies overhead tainting my assessment, but to me he smelled sad. He smelled musty. He smelled – well – he smelled alone.

And at that moment at least, with the possible exception of me, he was.

But I’d the feeling that he was alone most all of the time, that his aloneness was a state constant. A permanent scent that accompanied him. A shadow that always stood immediately behind, whispering softly into his ear, “I’m here. It’s just you n’ me kid.” A constant reminder that his death would be much more a release than a burden. Much more a connection with those loved, than a separation from those lost.

As he stood swaying at my register, complete with tattered grey plaid vest, blue ball cap (emblazoned with one of the two infamous Buffalo losing teams that so many locals seem to love regardless), and worn-through red and white blotched flesh, I found myself wishing even then, that I could remember the music he was purchasing in CD format, as it somehow felt integral to this tale.

But much like his face itself, the purchases seemed to have immediately faded from memory, leaving only my recollection of those confused eyes and scattered beard.

His eyes were the dug-in sort that said so much, whilst the beard-encrusted mouth said so little. Damn it Troy! THIS is a lesson you’ve learned often, and yet – being bred apparently of the hard-knock school – one that you seemingly refuse to graduate from. If there was ever anything that the ex said true, it was that (in the hands of the devious or arrogant at least), “they’re only words.” Not that this customer could be counted amongst that ilk, all the same he was in the end, far more communicative in eye than in speech.

And those eyes spoke volumes. His babbling diction and scent screamed at me as well, but it was those eyes that made me see truly and finally – as was told to me by a friend, advice provided them by their wizened grandmother: “As you are, I once was. And as I am, you will someday be.”

Christ, don’t let me end like that – like the man I think I see standing before me. Please hear my prayer for him, and hear it please for me.

Making change, I made certain our hands touched at least once. So I could know that he who stood before me was real – not some sort of future self ghosting back in warning – so I could unite with that perceived loneliness, begging that it not remain a shadow constant to either he nor I.

As he paid in cash, I’ll never know his name – never know his story, outside of our brief disjointed engagement. But while he wobbled off, that damned John Legend song was still blaring arrogantly overhead. A song that spoke of a love I’m guessing neither he nor I truly wanted to trust in anymore. But I thought, possibly a love that we still both hoped might – in some realm or fashion – be somehow true.

•••

A Thanksgiving Message of Sorts

“You don’t drown by falling in the water; you drown by staying there.”

~ Edwin Louis Cole

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I take an overly ambitious bite of my piping hot fish sandwich before it hits me.

Swirling the overheated flesh hurriedly around my mouth, in a vain – and ultimately unsuccessful – effort to cool it off; I look around to make sure no one is witnessing my faux pas, when all of a sudden it strikes. The observation that within the central section of this particular Burger King, couples are seated on the hard plastic seats, with all of them smiling and carrying on, regardless of their backside’s discomfort or protest. Couples of all shapes, sizes and ages, mulching through their fast food while leisurely enjoying each other’s company. Scanning the perimeter, I then take notice that these couples are seemingly surrounded by people of a most decidedly “singular” nature.

People that are alone.

It strikes me odd that those who “have each other” are encircled – in a sort of “round-up the wagons, boys!” style I suppose – by those who do not. The couples touched by love are surrounded by the untouchables. Or the untouched, if you will. And of the untouched, I find myself to be one.

One with a slightly burnt roof, resulting from the aggressively nuked fish, of course.

I look again at these centralized people, and unlike other couples that I’ve seen before at other locales who simply stare through each other, sharing only the bill; each and every one of these love-duets seems to share a life. A hope, a joy, a smile, a whatever-you-wish-to-call-it, that you notice about them. The point is, they are sharing Who They Are with someone Who Cares To Know. We on the perimeter however, are simply sharing our silence as we stare blankly into our phone screens, hoping that the food will go down easily, and the time will pass swiftly.

I find myself a touch jealous of these couples, although they be seemingly trapped unawares by the untouched, during their hand-held fast food lovefest excursion. I mean, it’s my thing, right? To long for that which I thought I had (but maybe didn’t) and still, on occasion desire to have again (though I don’t really know if it even actually exists at this point, outside of dime store romance novels) in some form or fashion, and with the elusive “someone special,” in order to – I think? – set my heart at ease.

The idea… the thought, brings me to tears (again, it IS my thing after all), and I shove every last fucking bite of that damned fish sandwich, one crafted with far too little tartar and way too much iceberg lettuce mind you, into my cake-hole as I try to fill my belly and still get back to work on time.

I do, by the way, and afterwards my day simply goes on. And I go on. And the jealousy that I feel decreases none (well, OK, a little), and the aloneness that I feel stays at a similar-to exact level as well.

A sad story, right? Pathetic. But one that is not exactly true.

You see, my feeling of aloneness only hung about until I became distracted by the prospect of the movie I was going to see that evening with my friend (“The Day Of The Doctor” in 3D, if you must really know, and YES, it was totally worth the price of admission AND having to sit in the front row so that we could all be seated together), and I was distracted further still when other friends touched base simply to see how I was and/or to fill me in on how their days were going. Laughing along the way as one auto-correct took “for school” and mis-diligently translated it to “fur school” (a phrase which abounds with a plethora of definitions, as it turns out.)

But that’s not the point though. The point is that I realized in the course of my afternoon that I am about as “alone” as Jesus was, the time that He happened upon 5,000 spare loaves of bread.

And for that, I am thankful. I am enveloped (because “shrouded” sounded a little too cocky) with a net of love that would not even be possible to enjoy to its fullest, if I was still “coupled.” I am still untouched, that’s true. But in all honesty, I think that that’s OK for now, as I’m still what I would consider relationshipinal “damaged goods” anyway. And while I loathe the prospect of being like the one older gentlemen I saw on the perimeter – so angrily alone that even Death wouldn’t be seen with him – until such time as the “right one” comes along, should they ever, I think I’ll be just fine.

Better than fine, in fact. Thankful.

I’ll be thankful for the friendships I have and can now enjoy, and thankful for the friendships to come – including those of my soon-to be adult children, and those that might have never been possible without my new-found freedom. In short, I’ll be thankful for what I have been blessed with, instead of jealous of those who might have something different.

And the next time I partake in a piping hot fish sandwich, I’ll be especially thankful if I can just remember to let the damned thing cool down a bit first…

•••

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends.

You Suck.

You suck at life…

You suck in your marriage…

You suck at fulfilling your potential…

You suck in love…

Hell, you even suck at limiting this post to just 5 songs…

You suck.

•••

Please visit Jen’s Twisted Mix-Tape Tuesday for more songs about sucking.

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PS: Should you listen to only (1) this week, go with track number #6, as it is damned near the “You Suck” anthem of all time. But also try to give picks 1 through 5 a audio peek as well. I mean, hell, this IS a mix tape, right?

Leonard Nimoy Gets Laid…

Listen, love ain’t free. You and I both know it, so let’s stop beating round that sad old bush and face the facts, OK?

Even when you wistfully think, “hey, no strings attached,” you just know that you’re lying to yourself. There’s ALWAYS strings attached. If not in heart, then at the very least, in purse…

And sometimes in heart as well, sometimes even a heart filled with disappointment…

But for the masses, disappointment is a worn-out old suit. Ill-fitting, uncomfortable and an embarrassment. Especially when the purse beckons towards instant gratification, especially when disappointment can simply be turned into a jaunty lil’ jingle to help celebrate the sin…

And speaking of jingles, are there any better than the one where instant attraction leads to instant fireworks? And instant fireworks leads to rings being exchanged? And rings being exchanged leads to some sort of happiness ever-after? But most often, only after those rings have lost their shimmer, going off on their merry pawn shopping way…?

But that’s just it – a blessed few get to realize their happiness ever-after, and the rest of us are simply relegated to dealing with the truth of the matter (most usually, only long after our purses have been drained of cash and fight) that eventually everyone has to pay, even Nimoy…

•••

So Jen told us this week’s Twisted Mix-Tape Tuesday prompt was “No Strings Attached,” and I instantly gravitated towards prostitution. None too sure why, but I feel that Anita said it best, when she cooed that she had been through the “mill of love,” only to find every type but True. And maybe that in itself is the truth of the matter. I mean, at least when dealing with General Hooker’s women, you know that you’ll be broke by the end.

Oh, and speaking of Hooker’s women, here’s your bonus track for this week – I hope that you enjoy =)