I’m in a rush to get to a lunch meetup
at this place called Gonzoburger.
Park my white car. Eye the green
app that lets me poke and pay
with this external brain in my
hand. Get out. Stroll through
the warm September light. Past a
phantasmagoric mural, all blues
and greens and purples, faces,
angels, devils, parties, flying
dogs. There’s a wheelchair
and a guy in it at the end of
the sidewalk. It’s an old chair,
not those fancy Millennium Falcon
chairs you see. An old guy, with
skin weathered like an ancient saddle.
A beard like Jerry Garcia. Long hair
streaked with grey, beneath a ball cap.
Plus, he has no legs. I pull out my
wallet, nab a $5 bill. He’s not begging.
Just sitting in the sun. I go up to him,
lean over. “Could you use some money?”
“Sure!” he says. Takes the bill, smiles.
He seems clear-headed, not like some
on the street. “Damaged goods,” my
dear friend Stephen said once.
But his stumps—damaged goods.
“What’s your name?” “Paul.”
“What are you doing?” I ask.
He grins. A couple teeth missing.
“Drinking,” he says. Smiles and tilts
one hand to take an imaginary drink.
I appreciate street folks
who tell it straight. “How are you?”
His answer startles me. “Suffering,”
he says. A grin, but less of one.
Later, I recall what the Dalai Lama
said of everyone: “Everyone wants
to be happy and avoid suffering.”
“How’d you lose your legs?”
They look cut off above the knees.
“This one,” he says, gesturing to one,
“was when I got run over by a bus.”
He gestures to the other. “This one…”
“… froze off from the cold last year.”
What do you say to that. I nod.
He’s all there. Or as much as I can tell
in this chance encounter on a sunny day.
I put out my hand, knuckles forward.
We fist bump. Paul smiles. I smile.
He is gone from the corner when
I return that way.
I learn something of life and struggle
and happiness and live every time I read your stuff. Thank you.
Thank you for that very much!