INDEPENDENT OF THE SENSES Sometimes it’s nice to know we’re not alone. The old man’s vision is blurry. It’s been that way for a while. His cane has become his best friend, a supporting figure in his independent life. As he walks the pathway, he prods his surroundings with his stable companion. It’s all about feeling. He quietly takes the steps down to the subway, in a careful and composed manner. I’m okay, this is an everyday thing. He knows it. He knows how it’s done, how to take a train. She rushes down the steps, her scrubs just high enough to protect from touching the subway floor. They are blue, like the calming skies on a beautiful spring day. Her shift will start soon, twelve hours devoted to helping those in need. But first, an hour trip is on the agenda. Her current job is crossing the city grounds with hundreds of other people following the paths of their own lives. Waiting at the station, she observes her surroundings in silence. He hears the train before he spots its moving framework. The long-drawn out horn, the roar of its wheels. The brakes squeal in place. For a second, everyone is frozen, waiting for the next step. But for him, he has already mentally planned out several. He will feel for the doorway, the smooth floors of the train, perhaps he will feel a wave of kindness if someone offers a seat. The next thing he will consider is the announcement of the conductor or the automated route voice, both who will guide him throughout his journey. The next stop is… The doors of the train open, the crowd of passengers enters the car. She allows the rushing group ahead of her. They’re all taking the same journey anyway. Peering down the line of train cars, she spots him. His cane is ahead of him, probing for the train floor so he can safely step forward. For a slight second, she feels a wave of sympathy. Then, there is a rush of awe and pride at such bravery. The speed at which the subway functions demands passengers to always be on their feet, ready to adapt to anything. This man is not afraid. There is nothing to be afraid of. I’ve done this many times years ago. He inhales. Exhales. His cane hits solid, smooth floor. He knows where to step ahead. But he falters. How high will he need to step? He shuffles through his memories, trying to conjure up the height difference between platform and train. “Excuse me, sir?” A young woman is at his side. He is confused at the contact. He peers at her, trying to distinguish a face. She uses his silence to ask him “Would you like some assistance?” He contemplates this offer. She smiles when he nods. Placing her palm beneath his left elbow, she gently guides him into the car. As they settle into standing positions, they brace for the sudden jolt that accompanies the train when it pushes forwards. He is calm, in near wonder at this wave of kindness. He lets it wash over him. “There’s a seat over there.” She peers at him warmly. “Thank you,” he says to her, comforted by the protective nature of this kind stranger. They part ways then, him sitting with his cane resting against his leg, her standing near the center of the car. The minutes go by, the stops pass one after another. Mid-way, he dozes off, lulled into a nap by the uniformity of the passageway. The automated guidance voice of the train cannot penetrate his sleep. He begins to dream. The world around him continues to move. Ears hearing, eyes seeing, hands moving, feet shuffling. She is nearing her stop. A small form of worry takes form in her mind. The man she had helped has not awoken. But that’s his problem is it not? She must maintain formalities. Everyone on this train has a role and must take care of themselves. It is out of character to wake someone up. Yes, she will not wake him. She nods slightly to herself, building a wall of justifications. But for some reason, the glue of the bricks she uses is laced with guilt. Why must she stop from helping someone? The train continues moving forward, racing towards her stop. The metal of the tracks squeals against the old wheels. The digital clock on the announcement board continues ticking by. When the train stops at the platform, she decides her next step. “Hi sir. I helped you a couple of stops back. You were sleeping and I couldn’t help but worry about you missing your stop” she speaks meaningfully. He wakes with a start. “What stop is it?” She tells him. He gets up immediately, shaking off the waves of tiredness. After he has his cane, she offers him her arm. He takes it without hesitation, smiling in gratitude. There are tears in his eyes. This young woman has dedicated a bit of her morning to him. As they step off the train together, he says “Thank you, my dear. There are very few people who would do what you did.” She smiles at him. He cannot see it, but he can feel its warmth floating gracefully in the air around them. As they take the steps upstairs, they leave behind a crowd of people inspired by the power of kindness, a quiet and humble entity in a world of order. Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.