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60 Steps Away

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.




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mmb77 said...
today at 11:41 pm:
This is awesomely, brutally honest
 
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