Please Don't Judge Him
Until you've walked in his shoes.....
He sat in the coffee shop, relieved to be out of the cold, if even for a few minutes. He sipped slowly, not really to savor the flavor but to savor the warmth. The window was steamy and he rubbed a circle in the middle of it with his gnarled hand. It was still snowing. He stared down into the bottom of his empty cup and knew he had to go now. He sighed deeply and slowly rose from his booth. He shrugged on the old, gray, wool coat, tattered and dirty; his fingers slid down the edges, hoping that buttons might have magically appeared, but all his fingers found were remnants of thread where the buttons used to be. He bent down and picked up his scarf, which too was old, dirty and faded. He wrapped it snuggly around his neck. Next he picked up his pack which held everything dear to him....blanket, toothbrush, a dented pot....a spoon. And pictures of a past life...
His 5 year old daughter,a tiny sprite with bouncy blond hair and deep brown eyes ran around the yard, "look at me daddy! Take my picture!!" she squeeled. His wife laughed and handed him the camera. "Okay, but can you stay still for just a minute??!" he laughed as he snapped photos of her. His 3 year old son ran around the yard playing airplane, his arms extended out on either side of him. "Take a picture of me too daddy!" he said as airplane noises sputtered from his mouth. He looked just like his dad, with straight dark hair and dark brown eyes. Daddy was his hero. He aimed the camera toward him and snapped away. He felt good.
His wife, love of his life, best friend in the entire world, sauntered over and slung her arms around his neck. She whispered softly in his ear, "You're the best of the best." He wrapped his arms around her waist and kissed her. The kids ran over and joined in the family hug and then it was time for dinner.
He walked out the door and into the freezing cold. His breath formed puffs of fog. He lifted his shoulders in an attempt to keep the warmth in and began his journey to nowhere in particular. He watched as a couple strode by arm and arm. They eyed him suspiciously. Don't matter though, he's used to it. He looked down at his feet and kept going. The snow was accumulating on his hair now. It began to melt and drip down his neck onto his scarf. He walked on.
After dinner the kids began their ice cream campaign...."please can we go for ice cream?" they both chanted together. His wife looked at him. "Wanna come with us? We'll run down to Dairy Queen." He thought about it and declined. "I've got a meeting first thing in the morning so I have to make sure all my ducks are lined up. You guys go and have one for me," he said as he winked. He watched as they ran to the car and piled in.
A flock of pigeons startled him and he looked up quickly. The water from the snow on his head ran in a tiny stream down his back. He shrugged. As he approached the park he noticed that most of the "regulars" weren't there. "Must be at the kitchen," he thought to himself. No matter. He didn't mind being alone. Got used to it. He found "his" bench and sat down heavily. His backpack landed on the bench beside him. Opening it slowly, he peered in and then closed it. He kicked the snow from his boots. Didn't really matter though because the holes in the bottom had already let his socks get all wet. Another couple walked by and again eyed him suspiciously. He looked back at them and then looked down. Didn't matter.
He was wondering what in the hell they were doing at the Dairy Queen. They'd been gone for almost 2 hours. He figured they'd probably run into friends there. They had so many.
He finally heard the car in the driveway and he turned off the office light. He sauntered toward the door, ready to jokingly harass them for taking so long. The officer stepped onto the porch and removed his hat. The man spoke but he didn't hear. Everything spiraled in fast motion. He began to sweat. He was screaming and pounding his fists. He cried, harder than he had ever cried in his life.
He didn't want to go to the shelter tonight. He pulled out his sleeping bag and placed it under the bench. He crawled in and zipped it. A lone man walked by and looked at him pathetically. Don't matter.
They handed him 3 roses. One for each of them. He slowly walked forward and gently laid one on each casket. Tears stung his eyes. His throat closed up tight so that he could barely breathe.
He watched as the tiny caskets of his children were lowered into the ground. Then he watched as his wife's was lowered in beside them.
The car was mangled. Wrapped around a tree. The black marks in the road gave proof that she tried to avoid another vehicle. But that driver never stopped. They were left there alone. To die alone in the tangled mess.
The man stood stoicly, hands behind his back and feet planted apart. He was their sentinel now...not him. He would not ever have them again. Would never hold their hands or hold them close to him. Would never hear them say I love you. Would never tell his children a bedtime story. Would never make sweet love to his wife. Would never grow old with them.
And then he lost his mind. Lost all semblance of himself and the life he once had.
He wanders the streets now. No direction. No care. Life doesn't matter anymore.
So please don't judge him. Unless you've walked in his shoes.
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