After sitting for almost three hours in a movie theatre I needed to take a wicked leak. So, while the movie’s credits were still rolling, I gathered up my car keys, an empty gallon sized cup of Diet Coke, my cane and hobbled towards the men’s room.
I fractured the third metatarsal in my left foot a few weeks ago. It’s not serious but the recuperation time is almost two months. I’m not fond of the cane because it makes me look like a doddering old man, but hey, it’s better than crutches.
As I was emptying my bladder, two young guys took station at the urinals on either side of me. Because the surgical shoe I was wearing was open toed, I moved inward so the guy on my left wouldn’t pee on it. That’s what you get when you commit the faux pas of taking the middle urinal.
“That film was great.” Urinal Right said. “Better than the original.”
“Best picture material,” Urinal Left said.
“But is Deckard a replicant or not?”
“I think he is. How could he have survived in Las Vegas all that time?”
“I don’t know,” Urinal Right said. “I think the jury’s still out.”
“Then how could he have survived fighting Batty in the original?” Urinal Left said. “He’s a Nexus 7, dude. Case closed.”
We all zipped up at the same time and made our way to the sink. Because I was handicapped, the young men let me go first.
“Thank you,” I said.
“No problem, sir.” Urinal Right said.
As I washed my hands I looked at my reflection in the mirror. A paunchy middle aged man with a week’s worth of grey beard stared back at me. The guys waiting behind me weren’t even out of their twenties – two sci-fi geeks who couldn’t convince their girlfriends to come with them. Then again, my wife wouldn’t come with me either. She took the baby to go apple picking instead – something I couldn’t do with my bum foot.
“Man,” Urinal Right said. “Harrison Ford got old.”
“What is he? Seventy?” Urinal Left said.
“I think he’s my grandpa’s age. Seventy-five.”
Reaching for the towel dispenser, I knew these guys weren’t even born when I saw Blade Runner in 1982. Heck, I was old enough to be their father. Crumping up my paper towel, I pushed it through the disposal hole in the middle of the sink and caught my reflection in the mirror once again. What I saw stopped me cold.
The person staring back at me was skinny, awkward and had acne. On the cusp of entering high school, he had not yet begun his journey into the wilderness. He hadn’t experienced the searing pain of unrequited love or the crushing depths of disillusionment, loneliness self-doubt and failure. He didn’t know regret. But he also didn’t know the joy of love or had felt the blossoming fire of creating new life. One day, he would taste the victory of light over dark. He just didn’t know it yet. But I could see the raw material was there; the intense look in his eyes, the defiant way he held his head and the undiscovered iron in his soul that would save ultimately save him.
The person in the mirror was me – thirty-five years ago.
“You’re going to be all right, kid,” I said, feeling myself tear up. “It will all work out.”
“Are you okay, sir?” Urinal Right asked me.
The vision in the mirror disappeared. “Oh,” I said, shaking my head. “I’m fine. Just the painkillers talking.”
“Are you sure?” Urinal Left said.
I pivoted on my cane and looked at my bathroom compadres. I had no idea who they were or what they had been through, but they had their whole lives ahead of them. “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe,” I said. “Moments in time, guys. Lost like tears in the rain.”
“Seriously, sir,” Urinal Left said. “Are you okay?”
“You know what I’m really pissed about?” I said.
“No,” Urinal Right said. “What?”
“That there are still no flying cars!” Then I walked out of the bathroom.
Yes, I know that quote isn’t exact.
Hey SD. Still waiting and looking for the joy you speak of. Thought I would be able to do more…
I think we all wish we would be able to do more. Part and parcel of being alive. Hang in there. And to think, you knew that skinny kid!
I’ll trade the flying cars any day for national health. Fingers crossed.
Funny how few people use canes when injured (vs. when older and disabled) – it’s got to be due to appearance insecurities since indeed, SO much more convenient than crutches when one can do partial weight-bearing. I used one for a while after a leg injury in my 30s and some people clearly couldn’t quite decide if it was for handicap or affectation.
My wife is older and has an unstable knee. She uses Euro-style walking sticks for stability. And for the hell of it she wrapped both of them in battery-powered LED light strings in multiple colors. I think people accept that she needs them, but she gets honest compliments every time we go walking.