It's hot. The problem with urban cities is that it's always hot out, even when it's cold. Cars radiate heat from their shiny exteriors and blow hot gas onto my legs. Stream-lined glass buildings rarely cast shadows onto the baking pavement, and so as I walk down the evening street in the cooling air, I can already feel the sweat dripping slowly down my neck. At the corner, I spot a dog sneaking a bathroom break at the base of a tree while its owner stops to speak to a street vendor. Not 60 feet away at the other end of the block, I see an old man being rolled down the street in a wheelchair. He surveys the hustle and bustle of pre-holiday preparations with a palpable sense of pride. Then I look down and realize that only one of his feet is visible. The other leg has been rounded into a stump. A war veteran. 40 feet away. I wave in distant awe and respect. When he lifts his hand, it is apparent that two fingers have been reduced to half their size. 20 feet. I make it up in my mind to go thank him for his sacrifice, but as I slow down, I feel a rush of wind at my back. A swaggering teenager, complete with the typical peak-turned-back beat-up cap and a sagging ripped-up excuse for some camo pants comes up behind me and just spits on the ground in front of the crippled veteran. Just spits. I cannot see my own face, but as the boy continues to walk past us with discernible apathy, it is almost as if a bubble has appeared between the old man and I, like a stifle of air. The veteran looks at me almost expectantly. I want to go and rub away the spit with my toe and make it disappear, that small wet spot on the chalky ground. But I can't. I brush by the man in the wheelchair without swerving from my path of motion and I don't remember where I looked except that I didn't want to look at anyone. And I could believe that I hated myself for it.
60 Steps Away
August 6, 2013