“Where have you been?”
It’s a question I’ve been hearing a lot lately as I slowly make my return to civilization.
This latest inquiry happened on Saturday as I was walking up 69th Street near Colonial Road.
The woman who runs the Hot Wok, my local Chinese food place, was crossing the street when we spotted each other.
“I had an accident in December,” I said, giving her an abbreviated version of the slip in the snow saga that has dominated my life for the last five months.
“I’m so sorry,” she said.
“I’ll be back soon.”
“Don’t worry about that,” she said. “I’m just glad you’re better.”
Yeah, me, too. I walked away feeling a little more human, a little more connected to the real world.
April in New York has been too goddamn cold for my liking. I’m still doing my stairway climbs, but it sucks when you have to bundle up at a time of the year when you should be listening to the birdies chirping.
But the last two days have been more spring-like and everyone outside of an insane asylum is hoping that the warm weather has finally arrived for keeps.
I’m writing this on a bench in Shore Road Park and I can see—and hear—a couple of kids throwing themselves around in the grass. People are out, the sun is shining, and yes, the birds are chirping once again.
Behind me a city bus is loudly proclaiming “Caution, bus is turning” in a female robot voice to anyone within earshot.
Another Day in the Park
One of my neighbors greeted me when I returned home and ask my condition. I happily pointed out that I am no longer wearing leg braces.
“That’s great,” he said. “Keep getting better.”
Oh, I surely hope so. I was forced to put a substantial portion of my life on hold for the last several months and I want to get back on track with my goals. If nothing else, this disaster has shown me that there are no guarantees in this life.
Last week I started doing my stair-climbing routine on 74th Street when a heavily tattooed young man named Mike came out of one of the buildings and started talking to me.
“Are you okay?”
“Yes,” I said, “I’m just recovering from a bad fall.”
We talked a little more and I learned that he had been a construction worker, but back problems have been keeping him away from work.
“Have you thought about acupuncture?” I asked. “It might help with the pain.”
“I’ll give it a try. I’m not afraid of needles with all these tattoos.”
Mike told me his grandfather had been a veteran of World War II and I explained that my dad had fought in the same conflict.
Part of my wanted to continue my workout but I thought it was more important for me to keep speaking with this young man. I could use the conversation, given my lengthy housebound status and I suspect that Mike really wanted to speak with someone too. The world can be a lonely place.
Finally, I had to leave, but Mike insisted on giving me a bottle of vitamin water even though I was three blocks from home and hadn’t broken anything vaguely resembling a sweat.
Still, I knew better than to refuse his kindness and I gladly accepted a bottle of this pink stuff.
“I’ll pray for you,” Mike said.
And I’ll pray for you.