Jacob Lawrence, Struggle...From the History of the American
People No. 23. If we fail, let us fail like men and expire together in one common struggle...
--Henry Clay, 1813 (1956)
I saw a crippled man struggle with his aluminum arm-crutches. Bus shelter, 19th Avenue,
San Francisco. Ankles splayed outward, soles at right angles to the sidewalk as if his dead feet
had fallen from under him and landed on either side.
If not for the crutches his weight would have snapped both ankles like toothpicks.
With all of his upper body strength he fought to put his soles face down to the ground.
Flash past in traffic, and the image is done. But I thought about it all day.
Summer, 1980. Bus stop on Balboa Avenue, San Diego. I'm headed downtown, to catch the
Greyhound to Redlands, to maybe prevent my relationship from breaking up. Across the busy
intersection one of the special-ed kids from the nearby high school struggles to cross
the crowded four-lane street. He has the walk sign, but, his balance is not right. Sways,
throws a clumsy foot forward, spins like a weathervane, stops. Disoriented: facing the wrong
way. Regains his direction, turns around, tries again. Sway, foot forward, spin, stop.
He's trying so hard, but his body will not do what he asks. Third time: sway, foot forward,
spin, stop. Failure. Defeat. Sinks to the ground in front of oncoming traffic at the top of
a nearly blind hill. I want so much to run to him, but -- my bus is here. Miss this bus, and
I miss the Greyhound; miss the Greyhound, and I lose my girlfriend. A choice to make. Him, or
her? Him, or her? I choose her. From the back window I see him holding his
head, crying, alone in the street as his light turns red.
We broke up anyway.
Relationships fail, life carries on, we forget each other. I've remembered that boy crying in the street
for half my life.
Back to the Agoraphobia TOC.
© 2002-2013 Mark Phillips.
All rights reserved.
Published 10/02: Comrades #13.
This writing is fiction. Please don't confuse it with reality.