I’m Just Getting There Fast As I Can, Same As You

It takes a certain kind of person to live in the woods on and off since 1998.

Jimmy has what it takes.

The first time I saw him, I was driving in Belmont, near McLean hospital, and there was a man, walking on the sidewalk, carrying his belongings on a bag tied to the end of a stick. Original hobo. I marveled and drove on.

The second time I saw him, it was on the bus. He wore mirrored shades. It was winter. Shorts exposed his bare calves, which were riddled with thick veins. His face was fuzzy with whiskers, wrinkles, chapped skin.

We exchanged a few words. Probably about the weather. I realized this was the same guy I had seen walking in Belmont. Not because of his stick, which I don’t think he had. Rather, it was the way he carried himself – slowly, as if trying not to fall apart. But steadily, too, like he couldn’t be broken. Continue reading

Searching for Healing

Matt makes me think of life’s unfairness, and the stories we like to hear about how people overcome it. Some people scrabble from hardship to emerge as high-profile success stories. They grasp onto their dreams and push their way out of the muck, with tears along the way. They arrive on mountaintops, finally admired, inspiring others with what they’ve overcome. These are the stories that get made into movies. The ones for which people are always hungry.

Then there are stories, like Matt’s, whose triumphs remain secret to most.

Matt is confined to a wheelchair. His hair is neatly combed, his eyes, behind glasses, a clear, light blue. His speech slurs, his neck bends towards his chest, so he has to turn his head carefully to focus on the listener. It looks like it hurts to get the words out.

He has wrestled demons, and doesn’t know where they come from – or if they travel by a different name – genetics, environmental poisoning, personality. He’s still searching for healing.

That search, and the One to whom it’s directed, are reasons enough to shout Matt’s journey from the mountaintops – however halting, however incomplete, however gradual it may be. His continued hope that he will feel better, the push of his mind toward wholeness, is his gift. This gift comes the way breath flows through the body, the way a heart beats without anyone being able to make it stop or start. Some days, you can argue with this gift, or try to ignore it. But it keeps coming back. You can’t measure its value. That’s why, however bleak things look on the outside, something in me quickens when Matt talks about what he wants most. Continue reading

I Want to Fall in Love

I think I’ve met Clark before, although he insists we haven’t. He could have been the one who talked to us in the summer of 2002, when I was visiting from California with my boyfriend at the time. I recall the thick, foggy glasses, the deeply lined skin, the untrimmed beard, the curly hair that spreads out like fingers. But mostly, it’s the voice – scraggly and slow, wandering over the words and picking up each one for examination. I remember that he – or this person like him – asked my boyfriend and me if we were married. When we said no, he asked if we were having sex.

While Clark doesn’t seem like the type to care whether or not an unmarried couple is sleeping together, he is very much attuned to his need for romance. His attitude towards his life and himself is blunt – both in how he speaks of it and in his casual summaries of various failures. But at the end of our talk, which he seems anxious to wrap up so he can get on with his day, he fixes his eyes on mine and says, “I want to fall in love.” Continue reading