There’s Always Somebody Worse Off

I am currently falling apart. I had an emergency surgery a few years ago that left me in pain and afraid to stretch or bend. My body became rigid and inflexible. Since last April my shoulder blade has been popping. I then fell on the railroad tracks like an idiot, hurt my right ankle, and began overcompensating on my left leg. All of this worked together to make me a mess, but I was a functioning one. I kept putting off going to the doctor, stubbornly refusing to admit that I needed it.

After the pain of walking became excruciating I finally broke down and went to the doctor, who said that my leg and shoulder are having spasms. He prescribed a pain killer (because I was taking too much Advil), a muscle relaxer, and physical therapy. The pills work, but I was putting off the physical therapy thinking that the pills would be enough.

I had an appointment this morning, so I took half of a pain pill and went there on the bus. Getting off the bus my leg seized up on me, nearly collapsed, and I came very close to wiping out and eating shit on the side of the road. Embarrassed, lamenting that I’m too goddamned young for this, I hobbled in to do my errand, came out, and went to the bus stop.

As I was crossing the street, I noticed a young guy already at the bus stop. Cute kid, probably about 18 or 19…and he was using a four-legged cane. His legs were twisted and bent at odd angles, his hip was slanting to the side, and every step seemed both ungainly and painful. He very politely asked me if I knew when the bus was coming. I checked and said that it would be there in about 5-10 minutes. He thanked me and let go of his cane — scaring the shit out of me — to reach in a pocket and get out his phone. I swear, he was on the verge of falling like three times, and one time he made a grab for his cane, but it was several inches behind where he was grabbing. I made ready to grab him, though my leg can barely support my little ass.

He pulled out a hopelessly knotted set of headphones and struggled with them, all while trying to balance on his cane. He asked me if I would untangle them for him. I said of course, and we chatted a bit. Very nice, very polite, very grateful. I managed to untangle them, he said thank you, and the bus came. We got on and sat across from each other.

An older, dirty-looking white man got on, kicked the cane from its resting place next to the kid, and kept going. He didn’t say excuse me, he didn’t say sorry, he didn’t even look back to make sure the cane was still there. Later, the cane toppled over entirely with a stop, and another man picked it up and handed it back to the kid. I saw several young, pretty girls get on the bus, and I saw the kid checking them out, and then his face just got sort of sad and he looked away. His stop was before mine, and he had to fight his way to the front of the bus through teenagers who grudgingly moved for him.

My heart broke for him. It’s still broken. That kid should be standing tall, he should have a girlfriend, he should be running or driving or…anything but needing to rely on a stranger for the simple task of untangling some headphones or needing to fight his way to the front of the bus.

I can get better. My body will heal with the proper care. Yet, here I was putting it off, not wanting to bother, hoping just the muscle relaxers would work…but there is light at the end of my tunnel. Where is the light for him? When does he get better? When can he have a girlfriend, or run, or just be able to untangle his own goddamned headphones?

It made me feel like a selfish beast and an ungrateful monster, squandering what I had, just because I was stubborn or because I had the luxury of doing so. I wish that kid love and happiness and functional legs. I hope with all my heart that he is or becomes deliriously happy.

As for me, I made my first physical therapy appointment for next Monday. And I’ll be thinking about him.

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~ by Darren Endymion on November 10, 2014.

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