The street corner faces the other three as if it is trying to hold on; trying to grab deeper into the earth as it sees the setting around it changing. The curbs bow to the asphalt street on one side, and hold tightly to the sidewalk on the other; charged with the task of keeping the two separate. The buildings, set far from the curb, are falling once into disrepair and then are disappearing, as if stamped deep into the earth by the steel and glass condos that seem to come from nowhere in no time. For now, on this street corner, there is still sun. Today, it's glorious and perfect, laced with an autumn breeze and overlaid with the sounds of life. It is lunchtime, and the high school kids walk the streets in packs of uncertainty and bravado. They care little for anyone else and mandate their ownership of the sidewalks, the curbs, and the streets, at least until lunch is over and they must move, as one, back to class. I stand on the corner, waiting for the walk light, listening to the pubescent throngs. I am jealous of their youth but not envious of their journey to come. I am finding my own journey exhausting.
The light changes and I cross with a random gathering of humanity, fording together, obedient, but made up of separates; each to his own with thoughts, appointments, and cell phones. I see the lunatic set against the building I am approaching. She is there in her wheelchair as she is most days. She shifts what little is left of her legs and fusses with her remaining fingers. Contained in her braked chair, she is constantly in motion; gums, finger stubs, thighs, all moving as she struggles to answer the voices in her head, I think. I am wearing sunglasses. I can easily feign distraction or some kind of urgency with which I must travel. With a tilt of my head, I can ignore her and pass. I have compassion fatigue and am so tired of the homeless, fearful, deep down that I may join its ranks, but something here moves me. I look at the lunatic and she hooks into my gaze. I remove my sunglasses, my only defense, and she pulls me to her with something deep in her bloodshot eyes. It is almost as if her erratic fit is an act, cloaking an angel, wise and kind. The rest of the world falls away as she tells me how dangerous it is to cross this street. We talk, us two; she, still weaving and dodging in her pathetic chariot, and I, standing next to her. I am stunned at her clear speech and her focus, and stand listening like an idiot as she describes the times she has been hit by vehicles on her voyages along these crosswalks. I express my disapproval at the offending, anonymous drivers, all the while wondering how this woman even exists. How is it that she isn't tempted to end her own time? How is it that day after day, in biting cold and unrelenting heat, she appears on this corner, from nowhere, like the condos? I never see her enroute. She is always just there. The packs of kids stay clear of her, perhaps out of respect and an unwillingness to consider that she is part of their future's palet. The next walk light changes and sets me free. I move from the lunatic and she tells me, "Be careful. God bless you." I nod, turn, and walk away. But in truth, I am stunned and off balance for the rest of the day. 'Surprised at her depth and endurance. A tremendous heart. No lunatic. Not her. Not at all.