November 2011 - Air Conditioning Installation
At first, I thought he was just cold. The casino’s air conditioning was pumped up, and it did feel a bit brisk. But then, he turned to the side, and instead of seeing the outline of crossed arms beneath his tee shirt, I saw a flat silhouette. Instinctively, I turned away.
I didn’t want to acknowledge that the gentleman standing in front of me in the buffet line, the chap who seemed so nonchalant, easygoing, and totally comfortable surrounded by three family members, had no arms. An odd mix of emotions suddenly coursed through me, making me woozy. I wondered how he managed everything. My two days of carefree card playing, dancing, roller coaster and log rides, embracing my loved one, swimming, climbing to the top of the water slide, all of these things, things I could do flashed before me. Most of my pleasures had involved grasping, gripping, touching, feeling, balancing, gesturing, and thousands of effortless manipulations, of which this gentleman was nearly incapable.
How would it feel to be him, to be in that body? I wondered. Instantly, I was flooded with self-pity, hopelessness, and despair. I wouldn’t want to live, I thought. It was then that I realized what a coward I must be, compared to this guy. He seemed the least self-conscious person standing in line. I felt grotesque, as I considered how I shrink from challenges, large and small. Like a kid, I tell myself I don’t want to do this or that, and so I don’t. If he could only have a day indulging the opportunities I turn down, it would be nothing less than heaven. Traffic was light, heading back to LA. I easily made it to my Black Belt class. The Sensei had us hitting bags. His instruction was simple: Outdo anything you’ve ever done before. I held nothing back, as the image of that fellow glowed in my mind. Over and again, with renewed spirit, I struck the bag for both of us.