A soiled trouser leg
is tucked up beneath him, held down
by the weight of his ravaged body,
reminding me that I am one of the lucky ones
who have more than the average
quantity of legs.
His right foot
sits askew on the wheelchair’s footrest.
I straighten my back, as if to make up
for his crooked limb.
A paper bag
rests crumpled on his lap.
I think of fragrant Indian takeaways,
and of the free accompaniments my family receives
when we order a meal for all of us.
He grabs the bag with the eagerness of
a child on Christmas morning,
sliding down the banisters to join his parents
who grin beside a glittering tree,
eager to see his eyes lit by the thrilling surprise of a new bike
tied around with a wide blue ribbon.
He unscrews a cap and tips the bag
towards his cracked lips.
What lies in those years between
the glitter of a childhood Christmas,
and a brown paper bag concealing cheap white cider?
I want to ask, but it is too intimate a question,
so I just say “Hi, Bobby,” and walk on by,
the stench of a life gone sour
clutching at my stomach.
Grateful for the small attention,
he cries “Merry Christmas,”
in a ho ho ho voice like Santa.
Even those without hope follow protocol
at this time of year.
He doesn’t knew my name.
I am just one of those who have been kind
in the smallest way.
I expect I posted The Fairytale of New York last Christmas, and it’s likely I’ll post it every year until I expire. I make no apology for constantly advertising my favourite Christmas song ever 🙂
©Jane Paterson Basil