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.

 

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10/10 keep your questions to yourself

Belle of the Carnival is asking questions (always with the questions, that one…). And while i usually struggle to answer them, much in the same way i might struggle to spontaneously give birth, when she asked for suggestions (in question format, no less) as to what she should write about this month, i quickly clickety clacked my response of “Would your life be any different, fundamentally, if you were the opposite sex of the one you are now?”, without a moments hesitation.

Shortly after i was done feeling all smug about what a wonderful question i had thought up to stump her with however, i began to realize how unfair it would be for me to ask it. The little Old Polish Lady who resides in my mind – ever ready to guilt trip me about any number of things i might have (or have not) done – stared me steadily down whilst waving her finger of indignation pointedly in my face. Her imagined glare is hard, her finger, straighter then God’s justice. And all the while she seemed to be saying “well, if you’re such a Mr. Smarty Pants, then why don’t you chime in with an answer???”. So, i eventually conceded that i couldn’t really ask a question like that without also answering it myself. And so i decided that that was what i would do:

Now, the first thing that would change, if i were the sex opposite my own, is that the old woman of my mind would’ve called me “Mrs. Smarty Pants” instead of “Mr”. Or would she have? i don’t believe i’ve ever heard the phrase “Mrs. Smarty Pants”. Or “Mrs. Smarty Skirt” for that matter. And i’ve definitely never heard of the term “Mrs. Smarty Housecoat”. (A bit off topic, but for me, housecoats are simply dreadful things. Any clothing of convenience really, typically is. As for housecoats, my grandmother had an entire wardrobe that – i swear – consisted solely of the damned things, that she then “accessorized” only with hair curlers, ever present in her head. i mean, i had always thought that curlers were supposed to have some sort of affect on your hair, and i would imagine that this sought-after affect would only be visible upon, you know, their removal. Sadly, with my grandmother, i was hardly ever able to either prove or disprove this theory.) But, i see i’ve once again strolled off into the land of digression – and not at all this time as a result of my having difficulty in answering my own question – so let’s move on.

As to me being the opposite sex, i was almost going to say just now that i would greatly miss the freedom of being able to, well, to pee standing up. Now i know that at least a number of feminist-minded women may be tempted to jump in here and clarify that they too, technically have this ability. But honestly ladies, it’s just not the same, and you’ll just have to begrudge us this one “superior” trait, OK? And it wouldn’t matter at any rate if you did, based on the idea that in this scenario i would be the opposite sex by birth – not by choice. As such, the joy of being able to close one eye and make it appear as if your tie were actually urinating and/or sign your name (in block letters no less) into the freshly fallen snow, would be a pleasure unknown to me. Which leads me – after possibly sharing a bit too much – to the first real difference between the male and the female me: the female me would most definitely spend much more of my life standing in line while waiting to use public restrooms.

On the upside, i would also have many more choices as far as fashion went. The me of today gets quite tired of the polo shirt/slack uniform of summer, that is retired only for the long sleeve shirt/slack uniform of winter. And while i would normally do much more in my “off hours” fashion, apparently very few other men would, and as a result very few clothing manufacturers create very few interesting items for us (the “us” with a budget at any rate). Which results most often in off the rack “off hours” choices of t-shirts/jeans for the summer and sweat shirt/jeans for the winter. Now i recognize that of all the things a life has to offer, this should be a concern towards the bottom rather than the top. But regardless of what sex i would be, i am still fundamentally who i am, and i can only imagine the clothes still count in either scenario. As a female though, i would most likely be broke as a result.

i won’t get too much into hair. It’s a bit of a sore topic, and seeing as i have always had so little of it – and even less now, i have no concept whatsoever as to what it would be like to have an abundance. Or even enough to at least warrant owning a comb. And i can only assume that in this case, the reverse scenario would feel pretty much the same.

i do wonder if i would be more or less sexual than i am now. And before anyone goes off on the tried and true “if i had my own pair…” routine, let’s keep in mind that in this scenario, i would have been born with them, not inherited them. i do know (a college education, once again at work!) that women orgasm differently then men and the point of pleasure is located in a different part of their brain. But other than that, is there really any difference? And would that difference dictate the amount of desire a person has? i’m not sure, and it’s a subject that boggles the mind (well, mine at any rate). While i would gladly (GLADLY) embrace the ability to have multiple orgasms without the need to, ummm, regroup – i highly doubt that going through childbirth would make it an “even” trade. And i guess that would be the second real difference between the “me” me and the female me. If i were a female i wouldn’t have any children right now. Oh, i’m pretty sure C and i would still have “become one” (again, based on the idea that we would all be the sex opposite what we are today), but as to having children goes, i just don’t feel i could do it. It was hard enough to watch C go through it. Three times. Now, i don’t have any of those “oh. My. God. It’s alive and moving around inside of me” symbiotic feelings, but i really don’t think i would have what it takes to push. And breathe. And hold on tight, it’s almost over. And push. And breathe… Everytime i think of it in fact, i tip my mental hat to every woman who has ever done it, and to you, in this instance i will gladly acknowledge superiority.

my mental hat: looking surprisingly a lot like Calvin Coolidge

And if for that alone, i am forever glad that God had the good sense to make me what i am. A man, stuck in a males body. One with children whom he loves more than life itself, even if he never would’ve been strong enough to give them life itself. True, maybe i would’ve been OK as a female. i mean, i am really good at walking in high heels (a different story altogether). And i suppose that regardless of my “bits”, i would be for the most part about the same as i am now – in spirit and mind at any rate (from what i’ve heard from others, it’s not like the “me” me is that far away from being a woman any way…). i’ll never truly know, and i suppose it wouldn’t matter if i did. i can tell you one thing though – if i was a woman me instead of a man me, when asked, i would’ve had the good sense to keep my tongue firmly in cheek, and my silly “stump ’em” questions to myself.