- Despite not writing here since November, I’ve been writing. I began arriving to work extra early exclusively to sit at my desk in a deeply quiet office and journal. The first person to usually arrive is our main attorney, who will be 80 this year and lives across the street. I write until I hear him enter, then make a pot of decaf coffee, my only act prior to clocking in. Whadda Guy, he says. One morning I passed his office and announced coffee was ready and dropped off a single file he’d ordered the previous night. I still hadn’t clocked in to work but was thinking over my next sentence and paragraph. I jokingly replied to his Whadda Guy with, “You know, I’m doing this pro bono.” To which he added: “In that case, you’re idiot.” His clients are million and billionaires. Moral: Get Paid, even and especially if what you’re doing is just being kind.
1a) Writing between 3-4 pages on an 11×17 legal pad is a great start to one’s day.
- One morning, as I was getting off the bus, I stopped at the backdoor to allow an older, masked woman off the bus first. On the escalator, she asked where I worked. When I told her, she revealed she was in the building across the street. And right there, I was enlisted to Walk Her To Office. She had the same short, stocky body type of my high school English teacher, salt and peppered hair. This unsigned agreement and social contract lasted two days as we walked together, chatting, us both masked and mildly relieved to find random human contact. We got to the red light on a corner and I quoted to her my father: Don’t watch the light, watch the cars. A red light never ran over anybody. But she dutifully stood there smiling beneath her mask and patiently waited for the walking icon, signaling us to cross a still street with zero traffic. The day after that, I ran off the bus and darted to the station bathroom, allowing me to walk quietly, without obligation to speak or be friendly so early. The day after that, I opted to take an earlier, less populated bus. Realization: I’d rather write two hours in silence than talk 5 minutes to a friendly stranger.
- Arthritis in my knee feels hot. It aches deep within its core when I attempt to bend or straighten it too much. The residual pain shooting up my thigh and down my calf feels molten. It feels as if someone took a claw hammer and popped my kneecap out of place, then jammed an ice pick into the hole for good measure. My knee feels frozen in place. On x-ray, the area appears frosted, a bright glowing white diamond framing around my kneecap. After the joint locks in place, and what seems to help: A) Epsom salt bath B) Heating Pad C) CBD Oil.
3a) Getting into and out of a bathtub with a locked knee is the most suspenseful scene in my private movie.
4) Empathy is the affliction of suckers. Not that I expected anyone to do anything for me. My coworker slipped me a stack of Lidocane patches like Tarot cards, but they did nothing except make me feel mildly nauseous and hungry. Its a struggle pulling myself upstairs, hobbling across the street, climbing up onto a sidewalk. People might stop once I’ve passed and stare over their shoulders. The guard at my building forced me off the freight elevator to use the stairwell next to the weeks-long corded off escalator, then turned her head when I limped past her desk. She had no pain. She did not help me feel “secure”. Moral: My issues are my own. Realization: Most security makes me feel insecure.
4a) Re: Lack Of Empathy
Each morning, rain or shine, pain or peace or pandemic– the bathroom at the bus station is busy. Men diligently stand at the sink bathing, or drying their hair with the hand dryer or remembering vintage A&W Root Beer floats. There are bikes, baskets, and bags. Candy wrappers, empty soup bowls, a carpet of toilet paper and face masks. One morning two people stood talking outside of a closed stall, while beneath the partition, one could see a dog inside on the floor, and an office worth of garbage bags stacked within. Washing my hands in this bathroom is pointless, despite the world wide health crisis. I shove my fingers into my jacket and save it for the office.
One morning, a plastic bag sat in the middle of the restroom entryway of the restroom. As I make the turn, there’s a man lying, asleep, in the middle of the floor. He looks at peace on his left side, his knees curled up slightly. But his snore was alien and liquid, sounding like a pump struggling to flush water. To get to the urinal, of which I can no longer ‘hold it’ at my age, I would have to step over him or walk around. With my knee, I took the long route. His head rested in a shallow puddle of saliva, spread wider than his own head, a drool pool algae’d with brown run-off like spilled cinnamon. I thought several things: leaving, calling the ambulance or police, screaming for security. I did neither. I did what I had to do, turned and at that moment another man emerged from the stall next to me. We both met at the edge of the stall at the same moment, both of us standing at the head of the sleeping man on the floor, mechanically sucking in air. They was skinny, taller than I, their dry blonde hair brushed back beneath a loose baseball cap. They wore a blazer with the sleeves shoved up over their elbows in a very 80’s fashion and skinny jeans. They looked surprised to see me and stopped for a moment. We both exchanged compulsory ‘Excuse Me’s’, as if we were both raised to know better than what we were both choosing to ignore. They went to the mirror. I took the long way around the man, shoving my filthy hands in my pockets and walked out.
There were no security on this level, a bus supervisor with a clipboard far off into the distance. I said nothing to him. At the base of the elevator, a man in a reflective yellow vest, seemed to fall asleep standing up. A giant empty dance floor with one man, bending forward slowly like a robot having lost power. The whole building was like a huge cathedral for the worship of Nothing and was quiet and irrelevant. On the escalator down, I realized there was no one I wholly trusted to do anything. The homeless are accepted and ignored. I thought of the overburdened health care system, packed hospitals, COVID and I felt just as apathetic and blind and cold as any of the white people I work for and with. Who pays the ambulance fees – since here in America whether there’s a new life born or one taken away, someone is paid and must pay for every moment between. I was a coward, felt awful. If I dared look directly into his face, I would have seen my own.
I hate confessing this, yet I can’t move forward until I do. I didn’t leave him after all. He still remains within me and will be on every floor of every room I enter from this point forward. He floats ahead of me as I limp back and forth from work to home. Between the man on the floor and the other emerging from the stall, and the kind woman I chose to avoid, they were the first strangers I encountered in the city in more than two years and I somehow failed them all.
…Or did I fail myself?
2 Replies to “[THIS PAGE LEFT INTENTIONALLY BLANK]”
“empathy…suckers!” compassion must mean youz gettin’ soft!
weez all livin’ in alien nation
a place with 144 square inches of land mass and air space invaded by arms and strides. a stranger, whose eyes never opened for you to look into, is still with you in the creases and folds of your conscience. believe it or not, they are safer in your conscience than they are in your ambivalence. you care and they don’t even know of your generosity of spirit. be good to your knees, brothapoet
Maybe no one fails if all has gone wrong enough.