Nicer Men

My wife is friends with the man who limps around the neighborhood on crutches.  His hair is peppered and stringy and he has those “I’ll cut you and make you bleed blood” eyes.  I’m not fond of him but he has been this man for years and years.  We see him on the same blocks - across from the park; in front of the bank; by the discount store.  At dawn, when we jog in turtlenecks, he is there.  At 4am, when we are drunk and breathing in bread smells, he is there.  His crutches are small for his body; he is also dirty.  And unlike that other guy at the train station who sits in his wheelchair with his prosthetic leg on his lap, asking for my money, and smoking the ends of used cigarettes while nicer men acknowledge his haircut, this man just limps. 

"That man is Richard,” she tells me.  “The walking is good therapy for his legs.”  

I don’t think this to be true but my wife likes to make simple sense of things.  It is this way because of that.  

"What’s wrong with his legs?  He’s had those crutches for years."

My wife tells me that I’m missing the point.  “What difference does it make?  Walking is good therapy, period.  You should walk more.”

I think my wife has missed the point entirely.  “I think if you need crutches, you should stay off your legs.”

She says something sarcastic like “Thanks, doc” and then goes to stand on our stoop with her mug of coffee like she’s the only one home.  

The next day, before entering the train station, I try to stand casually by the man with the leg.

"Morning," I say.  He nods.  Then remembers to shake his paper cup.

"Sorry, I don’t have…" my voice trails off into shared air.  "What happened to your leg?" is what I think to say next.

"Diabetes," he says.  "Lost it five years go.  I have this fake leg here, but it ain’t easy to walk.  Good walk would do me some good."

I say something like “Sure, I bet” but it is not before someone else approaches him, with offerings of a cigarette, and he is now thanking them, fiddling with a matchbook.  I skip stairs two at a time to catch the train.

A couple of days later, my wife and I pass Richard on the street. 

"Hi there," my wife says.

"Oh, hello," Richard replies. 

I let his eyes rape me for a second, and then I pipe in.  “What would you say to a wheelchair?”

"A wheelchair?  They’re too much," he says.

"I know someone who could use your crutches, and he happens to have a wheelchair he’s sick to death of."

My wife stares in horror at me.  “Who do you know?” she spits.

"The guy who sits at the train station," I say.  "We’re friends."  I throw it in there. 

Richard looks interested.

"I bet he’s there now.  We’ll walk with you."

My wife and I walk; Richard limps, and it is unclear, probably to everyone, why I am doing this.  But I am doing this.