In the “early holiday gift” department, yesterday I learned that something for which I have striven will come to pass. Already bound for California and evaluation at the Stanford Infectious Disease Clinic, I’ve now been accepted in the Neuro-Sciences Clinic as well. The schedulers found an appointment slot for me on the same day as the ID appointment.
I violated my goal of refraining from talking on the phone while driving on the highway to answer the call from Stanford. By the time I got to the office, my mood had ratcheted a few notches skyward. As I parked the car, I thought about my morning.
I had settled and made a record on a case in which my client had sought shared custody of his sons, aged two and seven months. My efforts, and those of the Guardian Ad Litem, had brought about his first meeting with the baby just a few short weeks ago. Now he has joint custody and three overnights out of every seven. A good day. A truly good day.
A smile spread across my face as I opened the car door and leaned to drag the computer bag toward me. The movement caused a tearing sensation in my lower back, where three damaged discs lurk. Tarlov cysts wrapped around the discs keep them from crumbling and the doctors from recommending surgery. The combined mess announces itself if I move in certain ways which I normally avoid. But leaning sideways feels like a burning rod has been plunged into my back. My heart lurches and I feel a flare of resentment rise from somewhere in my gut as I strain to keep from collapsing on the car seat.
At the critical moment, my eyes raise and meet those of a man wandering down the sidewalk from the nearby soup kitchen. He wears four or five jackets, each with some portion of its fabric torn, worn or shredded. A canvas bag slung across his shoulder dangles heavily against his back. He’s pulled a stocking cap down over his head but his hands have no protection against the cold.
The man stares into my car but not with malice. He moves slowly, but whether from pain or because his mind swirls in a mass of distraction I cannot say. His unshaven face hangs downward and it could be chance that casts his gaze toward me. He seems unaware of me and keeps moving. He continues past my car, southward, towards the coffee shop next to my building. I watch his slow movements. I see the dirty hem of his jeans dragging on the sidewalk against the worn heels of his shoes. I glance around me, at the clutter in my car: empty Starbucks cups, extra sweaters, a spill of pens from an upturned briefcase left where they lay. I shake my head; I cannot overcome the sudden feeling that I am essentially clueless.
I grab my computer bag and pull myself from the car. As I cross the sidewalk, the man turns and staggers into the street. I am thankful, suddenly, that there is no traffic.