At lunch after morning court, I knocked my coffee clear to the floor.
A young man at the table to my left leaped from his chair with a wad of napkins. His wife lifted my plate from the approaching brown flood. The waiter came over with a rag. We all settled in a few minutes, me with blushing face and the folks next to me beaming reassuringly in my direction.
You’re in good company, insisted the husband. We deal with this all the time! I’m a complete klutz. His wife nodded. I thanked them and cast my eyes down to my cold eggs and limp toast.
I had gone outside to take a call from a judge with the plate in front of me and the coffee still steaming. Fifteen minutes later, I pressed end on my cell phone and came back inside. Too hastily, as it happened.
While I tried to regain my composure, my saviors bowed their heads to say a blessing over their food. I had not seen such a prominent display of reverence in a public place for some time. I found myself eavesdropping on their conversation, with the fellow’s voice loud enough to make it easy from his side. The wife’s delicate murmurs inhibited my attempts to understand the back-and-forth, but I quickly gathered that they had recently reunited after a separation that the man, at least, had feared would lead to divorce.
Now they were planning a trip out of town to which they seemed to be looking forward with happy anticipation.
I finished lunch, paid and gathered my things without casting a glance at the couple beside me. They didn’t speak; they seemed engrossed in each other. A few minutes later, I hit the sidewalk outside of the city parking garage. The wind blasted me back just as a four-door sedan turned the corner to head into the wrong direction of traffic on a one-way street. I pushed myself closer to the oncoming traffic on the cross-street, away from the driver’s frantic attempts to reverse which took her into the crosswalk a foot from my swinging computer bag. She met my eyes; I cannot say which of ours held more fear. I flicked my hand and bent my head to the wind as I started across the street.
I fought the wind all the way to the accessible ramp of the circuit court building, where two lunch-time lawyers laughed at my obvious dismay. Going to fall over, are you? one of them said, while both let their amusement sparkle on their faces. I could not reply. My body struggled to stay vertical. I clung to the wall and braced my weaker leg, flashing for a second on the question one visitor to my hospital room thirty-five years ago had articulated.
Was it her good leg or her bad leg, he inquired of my mother. He referenced the shattered leg from a pedestrian-vehicle encounter of which I’d had the worse end. My mother’s eyebrows shot skyward. I didn’t know she had a good leg, she replied.
We all laughed.
I wasn’t laughing today, battling the force of a wind pushing me onward faster than those wobbling legs could handle. I staggered into the courthouse, groping for my security badge. The deputy, one of the regulars, came forward with extended hands, asking if I needed help.
I smiled. Boy, do I, I thought. But I thanked him and steadied myself. When the shuddering in my legs had subsided, I moved through the turn-style and continued down the hallway, to the courtroom where I would make a recommendation for another decent outcome, another co-parenting situation cobbled together for the life of a six-year-old with a splintered genogram.
When I left the courthouse, I took the arm of the lawyer who represented the six-year-old’s father. Game but a bit desperate we tried to gauge which way the wind blew as we started for the parking garage together.
It’s the sixth day of the thirty-ninth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.