It’s beautiful out, so I decide to go for a walk
before the Bills game. A nice day to clear your head.
I run into this older guy who is staring
at the obtrusive fence on Allen. With a very confused twinkle
in his eye, he asks me, “How do I get to the other side?
I really need to get over there.” I calmly show him the path
& he’s super grateful. I hope he finds
what he’s looking for. Maybe a spot at the bar
for our televised redemption.
A few minutes later, this other guy asks me for a cigarette.
I notice his hospital wristband. He proceeds to tell me
he just got discharged from Buffalo General,
but his head still hurts. Something is going on
with his neurology. I give him my last cigarette
& tell him, “I hope you feel better.”
Apparently, I’m the only person to tell him that today.
We stand there in silence for a couple minutes
& watch a pair of pants blow down Delaware like tumbleweed.
Eventually he removes his patient bracelet
& yells, “Go Bills!” We part & I reflect
on how there’s a deeper message here,
about how we’re our own worst enemy,
how we spend our days/nights staring at fences
& wondering how to make it to the other side.
How in our loneliest moments, we’re always removing
our hospital wristbands. The ones you can’t see,
the ones we wear around our hearts.
Always optimistic that we’ve gotten better
& if not, we’ll just keep on undressing our wounds.
Sometimes the trick is going outside
& chatting with strangers. How we’re all trying
to ride that wave of enthusiastic electrolytes.
Later that night as the game’s unfolding,
I decide that feeling better involves a leap of faith,
a split-second decision to jump over
anything getting in your way
even if it’s yourself. Like how Josh Allen
hurdles a defender. Tonight it’s Justin Reid.
Tonight is a victory. Buffalo is an explosion of joy,
strangers hugging in the streets. I can feel
the depression leaving my body bit by bit,
the sweetness of salvation as I’m jumping over
the fire hydrant on the corner of West Delavan
& Greenwood. No tears tonight, just our first steps
on the long road to recovery. Whatever it might look like.
Maybe hospitals that aren’t bursting at the seams,
maybe a city not under construction for all the wrong reasons.
How I never knew what redemption should look like
until now. How joy means always looking through the seasons
toward the future. Where you want to be, on & off the field.
Let nothing stand in your way, but lend a helping hand
when you can. Because feeling better also involves teamwork.
Carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders
when no one else can. Never underestimate your wingspan.
How we’re supposed to fly & look down
at all the broken fences, the thousands of hospital bracelets
blowing in the wind. What happens when there’s a storm
& it’s a positive one.
Lead image: Rory Allen of Zoom Copy adheres a “Jumping Josh” cutout to a Hertel Hurdle sign, with a warning – “If you steal this, I hope your kids turn out to be Patriots fans.”