I walked out of the office into the high street. The front door clicked shut behind me with that authority of security. That rush hour feeling was already emanating from the surface of the road as cars shifted along to the next set of traffic lights and skirts and suits strutted hurried down the pavement as they did in the morning commute. Taught well by a game of Frogger as a child I crossed the wide street between the work-horse saloons and tail-gating flat fronted city busses. I walked along side the over shadowing regent apartments only lightly toned with the stain of diesel fumes that hung above the traffic.
He walked at a pace that could only be measured in millimetres. Shuffling steps aided by a shopping bag frame on wheels. Grey bristles jetted out from his cheeks and chin and a look of both determination and fear synergetically. He must have been in his eighties and if he wasn’t then he was physically old before his time. I thought to myself how this gentleman, who was walking down a busy high street barely aided and where a whole day would need to be put aside just to go to the news agents, was still out and about trying. As I approached him he looked up and caught my eye. “Could you do me a favour and open the door with my key. Only if you’re not too busy.”
“Of course I can.” I said feeling honoured to help, “Which door? This one?” I pointed back to the nearest door of the ageing building.
He handed my some dead lock keys and a fob and I walked to the door which though only several yards away must have been a good ten more minute for him. I looked at the keys and tried to guess which one would fit the old brass plated lock on the large solid wooden doors that must be getting on for a hundred years old. “It’s the white one.” he shouted across, “Press it to the thing on the wall.”
Some small electronic pad stood out from the wall to the side of the door. I put the fob against it and click, the door unlocked. “There is a hook on the wall, if you lock the door open…” I hooked the door on a long chain and headed back to the man. I gave him his keys back which he filed somewhere in his deep shopping bag. I didn’t feel I could just leave him. Leave the story at this and carry on home as if he would be okay. “Can I help you in?”
“Only if you have time.” he said. I wondered how he managed everyday. How many people might have stopped.
“Of course I have time. Besides –” I said trying to lighten any feeling of burden, “the later I leave the less traffic I’ll be stuck in.” there was a glimmer of a smile over the strain.
I took his weight from under his arm and allowed him to lead shuffling his wait patiently a millimetre at a time. Through his shirt I could feel every bone through what little muscle was covered in his delicate and bruised tail telling skin. When we got to the steps up to the front door of his apartment block I wondered how on earth he would get up to the door. He slowly let me know his method that apparently was tried and tested. He had to get to the rail along the steps and pull the trolley up a step at a time. After twenty minutes though we were still only little closer to the rail and at this point moving no further. “I had a nasty fall last week.” he informed him. I could feel his nervousness. Despite his efforts we were getting no closer. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me today but my leg just doesn’t want to move.”
Eventually two strangers decided to stop and asked if they could help. Between us with me taking his weight and the woman who firmly encouraged the man to let go of the trolley, we got him into the lobby. Once there all his fears of falling were gone. The woman insisted that she could help him from now on and appeared to be a resident.
I continued my post-office walk to the car. I wondered about my thoughts. I felt sad for him. I felt emotional. What I didn’t feel though was that sudden zest for life that these sorts of things usually bring, that damn it i’m going to do everything I want to moment. I just felt the realisation that it’s slowly creeping up on us all. By the time I got home I felt odd about it all. Sad but unusually helpless about it. Could this possibly spur me on to do something about my own life while I can? Stop myself moaning about not quite having the right shape body I want or worried about being outed because something about my face might give me away.
I ached. My arms ached from holding his weight. May be the moment just wasn’t profound enough to effect me in that way or I just wasn’t in that place. Something had to be done about my fuzzy head. The lack of clear thought and mixed confusion that I’ve had of late. Stuck in this damn stressful demanding job and allowing people to walk over me. Something needed to change.
Until next time.