His cane makes noises when he sets it down and leans his weight into it.
Click-clack… pause… slide of foot against the floor. Repeat.
I had initially passed him, unawares that he was so alternately-abled. I thought only of myself in that moment and my need, like a bright sun flower, to warm my face in the sun.
I, who had spent an hour at the electrologists, allowing an infinitesimally small needle to be placed into the stubborn follicles of my face, then charged with a hot sting of electrical current, to kill hair I did not want growing where and like it was. To then spend the few minutes it took to get to the grocery store to buy a salad, an avocado, a small bag of kettle cooked chips and sweet potato mash for ‘dessert’. The chilly air-conditooned air that had been keeping me cool these past few hours felt stiffling. I needed warmth.
As I sit in a solid patch of sunlight outside the store, having passed the man with the noisy cane and reading over my receipt like a page out of a quintessential Great American Novel, he overtakes my position and wordlessly passes me.
I glance up and He makes a concerted effort not to look at me or in my direction as he ambles along his way, lest his nerve break or the concern in my eyes make him doubt his choice to venture outside on his own. The same way many people look at me when they see me heading to some or another store.
He stares straight ahead to where he intends on going next, his dark lashes feathery against the rim of his bottom lid. It reminds me of eyeliner and it looks pretty… no, handsome on him as a man.
He is young-ish, maybe in his mid to late forties. His skin tan and taut over the still strong muscles of his paralyzed arm. And I am assuming it was a stroke and it had been fairly recent. I assume only because there is really no way of knowing, though I get from the way he avoids my presence that he wants neither my concern or help.
I wait a beat anyway and assess our surroundings. The sidewalk is busy and the parking lot is bustling with cars full of children and mothers fresh from work and school. I follow, not far behind and try to anticipate his next moves.
He attempts to step down off the sidewalk, then thinks better and heads to the curb cut. I almost sidle up next to him and ask if he would like me to assist him in crossing the filling lot. But I don’t. I am afraid he will feel this insulting on some level and that I will take away the strength he had mustered to make the trek on his own.
So I fall back, keeping an extra eye out, in case I need to signal a coming car to slow down or if I need to present him with my help.
A hipster, in her SUV, sipping a beverage from a clear plastic cup with a green straw, stops her vehicle and signals for me and the slow moving gentleman to cross. I signal to her that he is crossing but she does not understand this and continues to signal for me to now cross. I nod my head in thanks and extend my hand to the gentleman and she finally understands that I am waiting for him to cross, to ensure that he makes it alright. She grins broadly and sips again from her green straw and waits until he is clear of traffic.
Once the noisy-caned gentleman crosses the parking lot successfully, I turn and leave him to the rest of his journey.
The multiple threads and snippets of thought crowd in and occupy my mind once more and I continue on with my journey as well.