Sunday, August 10, 2008
He looked like a muscular version of skinny guy from Nacho Libre; long shaggy hair, lanky limbs and spandex everything. A small American flag served as a cape against his shirtless back. His crutches rested to the side as he labored over stretching exercises between countless mini rounds of push-ups. Packets of powdered energy drinks decorated one leg while the other was wrapped in an elastic ankle brace.
Huffing and puffing, stretching then strange gestures with his hands, fixing something only he and a mime would know. People pass by and give that sideways stare, the one reserved for strange people or things you want to know more about but you’re too weirded out to get involved. So instead, they pretend he doesn’t exist.
But he didn’t mind. To him the people didn’t exist either. Besides he was getting ready for a mission. Like Don Quixote, this hero had a windmill to fight. He braced himself and pushed forward with all his might. The concrete behemoth barely shifted as every muscle in his body tensed to make it move.
A kind young man offers help but he politely declines, saying he needed to tackle this one alone. No room for a sidekick on this job. The young man looks down at the concrete trash cube then moves on.
The mission continues. He makes a private joke to no one in particular and laughs out loud. Another shove manages to move the cube only slightly. The bolt that holds it down firmly into the sidewalk proves to be a formidable opponent. But that doesn’t stop him. He pushes on.
I wondered why he was doing this. Don Quixote was fighting for Dulcinea’s love. Was it the stars and stripes? I hoped not. Because I’d seen guys like him before, only it was the seventies and their windmill was called Vietnam. They were all like the Man of la Mancha; brave and determined but wasted and ignored. They had fought for the impossible dream only to be exiled when they returned broken. In our kingdom, there is no mercy for reminders of our follies.