Observing Strangers


I’ve been coming here to people watch for three weeks now. I like it here. No one can see me in my wheelchair. That way I can’t see the pity on their faces, a pity that only increases when they see my army fatigues and realize how it must have happened. “Thank you for your service,” they say. What do they know of service?

I started observing strangers because of something my physical therapist Dave said to me. “You’ve got to get out of your apartment more. Coming to see me three times a week doesn’t count. Get out and see people.” Easy enough for him to say. He didn’t have his legs blown off by a fucking RPG in Afghanistan. Well, this is me, seeing people Dave. I have a great view of the corner of the park, where two busy intersections meet. At lunch time, now actually, it gets pretty crazy with people rushing everywhere.

There goes a young mother pushing a stroller. Eyes on the phone in her hand, barely watching where she’s going, a slave to the newest and best app.

Behind her is a middle aged man in a dark business suit carrying a briefcase, no doubt rushing off to seal the next big deal. His suit probably costs more than I made last year.

A twenty-something male jogger flashes through my vision, chasing after his dream of the perfect body. Good luck with that buddy. Things can change in a flash. Trust me, I know.

There’s a hot dog vendor on the corner. He’s been there daily, trying to make a living. I watch him set up every day. The bastard resells the hotdogs that didn’t sell the day before. How cheap can you get?

A perfect specimen of the female form struts by walking her toy poodle. She’s a model I think. I’ve seen her face a few times on TV and on magazine covers. Living the high life by lying to women about what perfect should be.

There’s a cabbie sitting at the curb that looks like he’d be one of the insurgents we were fighting in Afghanistan. Believe it or not I don’t bear those guys any ill will. They were doing their duty and so was I. War is hell on both sides. But this guy advances his meter a few dollars before every fare. Scumbag.

A teenaged girl walks by, struggling with six dogs on leashes. She’s just trying to make some extra money as a dog walker, I get that. But she could at least pick up their shit.

A cop car pulls up and parks in a handicapped spot. The two officers get out and go over to the hotdog vendor. He gives them each a dog for free. To protect and serve and abuse our authority, right guys? At least they were yesterday’s dogs.

Just inside the park is a group of five teen males. The cops can’t see them and it’s a good thing for them too since three of them are sharing a joint, one is taking a piss on a tree and the last one is tagging the wall surrounding the park. Those morons have no respect for anything, they’re a waste of space and resources if you ask me.

Propped up against the wall surrounding the park near the entrance is a blind beggar. He sits there all day holding his cup in his hand asking for change. Except he isn’t fucking blind. I see him dropped off by someone in a new Lincoln every morning and picked up every night. What kind of asshole feeds off the kindness of strangers?

There’s a guy set up on the corner selling watches. Genuine Rolexes he claims. In the three weeks he’s had to pack up and run at least four times when previous customers came back looking for him. Fake, stolen or both? Doesn’t matter, the guy’s a crook.

I’ve seen a couple eat lunch – hotdogs the poor saps – every day and watched him kiss her goodbye. Sweet, right? Every day at two o’clock she meets another man at the entrance to the park, they kiss, and head across the street to the hotel. Poor guy, he has no idea. They’re having lunch right now.

So is today the day? I scan the street, looking at all these people I fought the ‘War on Terror’ for. That I lost my legs for. Not one of them worth a damn in my eyes.

I sigh and take the scope from my eye and put my sniper rifle onto my lap.

Maybe tomorrow.


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