Through the softly falling rain of March in New York City the aroma of a cocktail of thoughts force through my mind. I recall the old man I met the other day who spoke to me about another man.
“He walked with an imaginary limp.” He whispered to me.
“What do you mean by ‘imaginary limp’?” I asked.
“There was nothing physically wrong with him, he had been through some hard times in his life which made him feel as if he were wounded in war or something.”
“Was he in a war?” I asked.
“Metaphorically yes. But life can be a war for some.”
“In which sense? He was always smiling and laughing.”
“In between the teardrops there is a lot of laughter – but the laughter fades while the tear drops leave a permanent mark.”
The old man walked away and I stood there thinking about what he had told me. The war he lived was the war of survival, a war of attrition. Who would survive in the end would be the victor. But in life no one survives – each human being dies eventually. So was the attrition he suffered worth the cost of a hill in time? The wounds, the scars and the lonely nights defending a front that you cannot even see.
I spoke with that man in the evening.
“I understand that you were referring to yourself.”
“In the book you just published, you are the man walking with the limp?”
He laughed, took a sip of his scotch, then began to speak.
“You come home and despite the love, there is no one there. An embrace is as scarce as a well of water in the desert. You are not permitted to confess or to discuss the war zone because it may dampen the morale of the other general or the soldiers. So you turn towards your inner self and you find self-inflicted wounds, stains on your chest and a limp in your gait.” He looked down at his scotch and he moved it in a circular motion which created waves of gold swirling in the glass.
“When I was a kid I thought that life would welcome me. As I turned around 12 or 13, I began to sense a companion who would accompany me wherever I would go. The companion was, I know now, depression. Back then I just thought it was being in a slump. I found some laughter here and there in between the tears. I found some sunrises after long dark nights praying for the morning to race towards me. I found love but even that love betrayed me. Success which was once a foregone conclusion evaded me and only permitted slight tastes…”
“So what happened?” I asked.
“One day I confessed my fears and I was rebuffed. So I became hardened and grew calluses all around me. I began to be me and not give a shit what anyone thought. That is when the war picked up its fervor but I was prepared this time. I conquered and found the reason for each day.”
“So why do you walk with an imaginary limp?”
“Well, I get tired sometimes and it’s a habit I picked up from God knows when. I am good these days, wealthy, more than I could have imagined. Successful and living the life I dreamed of. But I still cry at times. I’ve lost a lot of friends in my lifetime – this son of a bitch still follows me wherever I go.”
“So what’s the point of fighting if we all end up in the same place in the end?”
“It’s not the destination, it’s the journey. What we do in between birth and death is what defines us to ourselves. Who gives a shit about what others think, I believe I have made that clear in my writing? Live for yourself because you are the only one who will be there for you always, everyone else are condiments.”