There's a woman at the end of the bar who can't believe the way we coddle people these days.
Car seats for children. Food stamps. Half-way houses! All of these things confound this woman. To hear her tell it, allergies could be cured with repeated contact with the supposed allergen, asthma is an excuse for those who are "afraid to try", the addicted can get clean in jail and seatbelts are "stupid" because "if it's your time, it's your time".
"Nobody wore a helmet in my day," she bawls over her beer, "and we all turned out just fine!"
Sure you did, lady. Except for those of you who didn't. The ones who didn't wear a helmet and suffered avoidable traumatic brain injury because of it didn't make it to the bar tonight.
And then I remember the girl I can't fully forget.
There was a girl in my 7th grade class. Try as I may, I cannot remember her name, not even enough to fictionalize it; yet I remember her face, her manner. She was pale and thin, looked like she didn't sleep. Her clothes were dirty and may have been from another era. She was disheveled. Not in a cool, hipster sort of way -- hipsters had yet to have been invented -- but in a forgotten and clothing-as-cover-only sort of way. Everything she wore was too big, matronly even, right down to the 50's style bra discernible under her inevitable and white cotton blouses. The unfilled cups of those bras collapsed under the weight of the material, becoming odd lumps of confusion.
There she sat in the row next to me, head bowed, mute. She didn't speak, ever, even when the teacher asked her a question, something that blew my mind every time it happened.
How do you not answer the teacher?
She showed up one autumn day with a black eye. Later in the year her arm was in a sling.
I avoided her, just as, it seems, everyone else did. She was marked somehow. I think we were afraid that she was contagious.
In retrospect, I can't help but wonder about me at that age and speculate as to how much of my brain I was using.
I can't help but wonder if mandatory reporting on the part of the teachers and doctors in her life might've changed things.
The woman at the end of the bar blathers on, but I've turned her off.
She's saying nothing.