Unspoken Words/NaPoWriMo Day 9

I met a man one day,
many years ago,
frail and fragile
he was in body,
mind, and, especially,
in spirit.

I was rushing to the
ladies room during
my ten minute break
from medical transcription,
when I spotted him in a chair,
all alone, with everyone
avoiding him like the plague.

It wasn’t hard for my 23 year old
mind to add 2 and 2 together.
Sores on his face and arms,
sunken hollowed cheeks,
and everyone’s 5 foot allowance
of space between themselves and him,
sitting there, alone in his chair,
looking down at the floor,
eyes filled with tears that
he would not let fall.

I stopped and spoke to him,
“Are you waiting for medical records?”
I asked. He nodded mutely, “Yes.”
“Would you like something to drink
while you wait? There’s a Coke machine
right around the corner. Come on,
I’m buying.”

I will never forget the look in his eyes
as long as I live–a silent pleading for
respect, dignity, compassion.
As he rose to join me and we left the
office, I practically heard the hisses
of disapproval and fear that, while
silent, were definitely felt by both of us.

I bought the man a Coke with a quarter,
bought myself one too, and asked him
to sit down a minute in one of the plusher
chairs of the waiting area.
I took the chair next to his.

“Thank you, both for the Coke, and,
well, for being nice,” he murmured.
“Nice?! You think I’m being nice?! Ha!
Have you got me wrong or what?
Next time you’re buying!” I replied
huffily and with a grin.
He laughed out loud.
In that split second that his face
relaxed and joy entered his eyes,
I saw what a handsome young man
he had been.

I bumped his shoulder with mine
and grinned back at him.
There was so much I wanted to say,
but I needed to get back to work.

We went back into the office.
“Your record copies are ready,”
one of the records’ clerks told him
coldly as she stuck them as far from
herself as possible.
He took the huge envelope,
said, “Thank you,” quietly
and then turned to me with
an outstretched hand.
We both had tears in our eyes
by that point.

“Where to next, you?” I asked.
“Houston. They have an experimental
drug they’re trying out. I’m hoping
to get into the test program.”
I took his hand in mine and then,
in my usual impulsive way,
took him in my arms for a big long hug.
He whispered, “Thank you so much
for treating me like a human.”

Before I could reply he was gone.
The words on my lips, but not spoken
were, “Please forgive us. God loves you.
I love you. I’ll see you around.”

© Elaine Wood-Lane
4/9/16
*************************************************************************

Today’s suggestion was to write a poem with a sentence in it that we were afraid to say. This is a true story. I did meet a young man in the last stages of AIDS in 1984, waiting for a copy of his medical records. It was a defining moment of my life. I will never forget him, even though I never knew his name. I’m still embarrassed that I didn’t say the words on my heart.

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