He came in, just finished work,
uncertain smile over trembling hands,
so ashamed uttered he couldn't wait
till his next paycheck;
had to get food, borrow some money,
laced his request with the promise to repay.
I said don't worry, we all have debts,
trust is the only thing we own;
it's right here, printed on our notes.
He returned today,
slipped a twenty dollar bill furtively
in my right pocket while whispering ‘thanks’
‘I've never told you I didn't make ninth grade. ’
No need to explain, I replied,
we’ve all have, at least once, failed.
I drove off with the memory of his blue eyes,
warm and cold stare, cobalt blue,
castaway of the ocean bathed in electric blue,
shades of indigo light
storming from the heavens above
in hopeful, wasted gesture.
Red traffic lights replaced the cerulean glare,
and there she stood,
head down in her wheelchair,
metal ghost, wheels of despair,
a woman abandoned on a road,
I stopped and got off,
gently touching her frail body moist with sweat,
speaking softly in her ear with a ‘are you all-right?’ question,
while I reached for that twenty dollar bill
still burning in my pocket.
She looked at it, incredulous, next to her small can of change,
and yelled ‘wait!’ ‘wait, God bless you, you’ve changed my day!’
I spun around and hug her, pushing her chair,
as she mumbled, toothless, Ronda was her name,
short of breath, an alcohol smell mixed with the words
‘No one ever hugged me...like that...before...
you know...I'm pregnant...’
My heart flooded with pity,
guilt for all I had received, all she didn't get,
while impatient drivers blew the horns
over the smog, in the torrid air.
I saw her again some time later,
standing next to a cop,
leg braces removed, folded wheelchair,
like a Buddha with clay feet,
a fake cripple in the mist of an era.
The sight made me smile
deep inside, yeah, nothing had changed,
I still felt for this shark trapped in a fish bowl,
as I remembered an old man's joke
about those rules and the games we play:
"The wise guy lives off the fool
and the fool, from his work."