Saturday, August 21, 2010

Collision: Not by Accident

And my mother would tell me, "There are no coincidences. Only reasons we do not yet know."



Her t-shirt said, "Phat." He was born in 1957 (and by his own admission he had Dyslexia), so although he read her t-shirt he did not fully understand it. He noticed her, not only because she was in a neon pink t-shirt sporting a baby bulge, but because she was in a wheelchair. Although he knew the obvious explanation, he wondered for more than a second how she could be pregnant. He could not possibly know this, but sadly she wondered, too.

He had only stopped into McDonald's to quickly grab an iced tea and catch up on some paperwork before heading out to his client's home, so he tried desperately not to be distracted. But, unfortunately (or fortunately) he was finding it difficult to focus. He stared blatantly at her as she took an inordinate amount of time to count out her change.

As he often described his Dyslexia (to people with whom he had developed a rapport - a common occurrence because he was A Talker), words wandered around the page making the task of reading time-consuming and difficult for him. Before reading and processing, he had to first still the words. He did have two masters degrees (in architecture and engineering), so the general assumption was that he had found a phenomenal way of compensating. But, it was obvious to some (teachers mostly) that his thinking was somehow different.

His mind functioned uniquely and similarly to a filing cabinet. He observed and inventoried events and facts, carefully filed them away in his mind under appropriate and often cross-referenced headings, and was able to retrieve them later in uncanny and noteworthy detail.

He had noted precisely how she reached back for her handbag (he was born in 1957, so he didn't know another term except "handbag"), rummaged for and found a weathered leather coin pouch with a silver snap on top, and dumped out the contents of this bag onto her lap.

As it was taking her more than the usual amount of time to count her change, he surmised that she was of diminished mental capacity (later he would describe her as 'mentally retarded.........ation'. As if he could not decide if she was retarded in the past tense or now). But, she did finally count her change, wheel herself to the counter and distinctly and (unusually) loudly (this volume due to her diminished mental capacity) ask for a 'Diet Coke.'

She was helped and handed a cup.

He then watched (now fascinated and unable to take his eyes off her even for a second to pretend to glance at his paperwork) her as she stayed at the counter. He wondered why she was staying there and not proceeding to the Drink Station and was about to stand up (not entirely sure what he would do after that) and move toward her, when suddenly she jerked her head, and abruptly wheeled her chair back and around to the Drink Station. Cup in hand. As if she had come out of a haze. A daze.

He felt relieved and he wasn't quite sure why. But his relief was quickly replaced by a feeling he would later label as Frustration when at the Drink Station she was unable to actually reach the ice or drink taps. He continued to watch her as she sat there (because What else could she do?), not moving, not looking around for help. He would later say that he wasn't sure why he sat there just watching her sitting there for that many seconds because it hurt him. He would say it was almost painful for him.

Finally when he did stand to assist her with getting her drink he did so in a rushed, clumsy manner. It was as if the feeling he felt (what did he say it was, Frustration?) controlled his body movements for a second as he stumbled, some would say careened toward her to help.

When he did reach the Drink Station, he was unable to speak. So overwhelmed was he with Frustration? So, because he was unable to speak he motioned to the ice (to which she nodded) then he motioned to the Diet Coke (to which she nodded again). And he filled her cup.

He would relate this story to me later on my expansive front porch. Far away from McDonald's, we are ironically drinking freshly brewed and steaming cold raspberry iced tea. When at first he attempted to tell me this story he faced his chair toward mine in an awkward fashion and looked me in the eyes. I do not look people in the eyes that I do not know that well. It is too intimate. Too telling.

When the story is finished I have become riveted (but, I do not know why) and I am looking directly into his eyes. In fact, truthfully, I find I am unable to look away. I am unable to look away from these eyes that are unabashedly wet with tears. I notice suddenly (and wonder briefly why I had not noticed before) that his face is wet. Is this sweat? Are they tears? I am speechless and I am unable to look away from these eyes that at first I did not want to see.

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