First week of school
A boy dragged his multiple sclerosis toward me along one of the red brick paths,
donning still-unscuffed tennis shoes, never-worn-before polo shirt, and crisp, unwashed jeans. He drags his matching black backpack and sideways shoes over the bumpy bricks.
All of them probably bought from Target for their utility
But also because it was like he could buy articles of hope
That his chance at a normal life would at least, hopefully, outlive their first wash.
And on my way past him we nod and try to smile.
His eyes hang on me
Like it was all he could do on his drooping face that couldn’t even recover a stretching drip of syrupy saliva as it hit and somersaulted down his collar. I mean he really drooled out of his mouth as I pass.
We cross and distance gains between us.
I turn around and let my eyes linger on him, discerning his situation.
And I tell myself things like, “It would just be awkward for both of us if I tried to catch up to him and start a conversation” or “look, there’s another guy who told him Hi; he’s probably not that lonely.”
I say those things to myself to allay the straining of the bungee cord grappling hook I had thrown into his heart from my own. Oh the ache and twang I could let myself feel for that boy if I let it.
And I remember how moments like that used to make me cry, and the hook would be pulling on me for a whole day after. But I learned to sever those cords with cold words of reality and logic, because it just hurt too much.
Later, a woman passes the bench I’m sitting on.
Her firm curves moving under fitted fashion, brunette face like those from the dreams that woke me up with such longing and ache in my adolescence.
But I tell myself, “She’s probably married,” and “slim chance she’s a Christian.” And, “I’m happy being single.”
And I realize again I have learned to neuter my deepest feelings with well sharpened scalpels of reality and logic. I never got to consume a love redolent of this scent and it just hurt too much to keep breathing it in. So parts of me stopped breathing.
And I don’t know a better way to do it. Because these are the realities of this world. She probably really is married, and the boy probably can’t talk well to me. I don’t know what I can do, except to be aware, be patient, and be ready to fully consume the opportunity to help, or to love, if it ever freely gives itself to me.