We got on an elevator that went up, not down. We arrived at a floor where people were leaving various court rooms, hopping on the elevator heading down to the lobby and from there to the street. We had wanted to go down to where there's shopping and a food court. A young man got on the elevator. One arm was completely covered in tattoos, the other had none. He wore a white tee and a scowl. It didn't look like he was having a good day.
The other fellow who got on was a fellow in a business suit and a briefcase that said, "I work for a lawyer." Some briefcases are more uppity than others. The door closed. The young man was standing beside me, the lawyer on the other side of Joe. There was some tension in the air. The young man spoke, shortly after the door opened, he spoke to the lawyer. His voice travelled over my head, the words making breeze as they travelled so quickly.
"Don't disrespect this guy, that's the trouble with you people. You are full of disrespect and then you're surprised when you get disrespect back."
I had no idea what the lawyer had done, Joe told me later that he'd looked at me, then shook his head in disapproval. I saw none of this, I was busy helping the elevator by ensuring that it travelled the numbers in sequence.
The air was brittle.
The fellow in the suit said nothing.
I looked up at the guy with the tats and I could see that his eyes were watery and his mouth slightly quivering. We are, none of us, very far away from the little boys and little girls that we once were. We are never far away from the schoolyard and the hierarchies first formed there. None of us.
The lawyer fellow got off first, the younger man second, it was done as if it was the natural order of things. He'd spoken up to the suit but he waited, in deference, for second place. When he got off he said, "I hope I didn't embarrass you. I just didn't like how he dismissed you." Joe grabbed the elevator door, which was closing, to give me a moment. I said, "It's nice to have someone else fight my battle for me every now and then."
He smiled and said, "I know, that's what I could use right now myself."
There was a gentleness in his voice that told me he meant what he said. He seemed lost and alone in the world. Defenceless and undefended.
It strikes me that sometimes I find myself going on and on and on about issues regarding disability. And I will continue because that is what I do. But I need to remember, always remember, that there is something about the human condition, something about how hard life is for everyone, that allows connection to be made.
Allows two strangers, both who live in the same city but in different worlds, to have a moment of connection.
I felt a little different after that interchange. As if I'd been somehow strengthened by it. I sit here, alone in the dark morning writing this, hoping that he too ... wherever he is ... feels strengthened too.