Thursday, September 24, 2009

can i have a balloon?

So yesterday as I was walking home something caught my eye. A sign that said “spaghetti special: $5.00”. I was on foot and cashless so a trip back was definitely in order. As soon as I got home I hopped in my Honda and cruised down the block. Traffic sucked so I decided against flipping a U and parking in the front. I made a few turns and dipped down the surprisingly clean alley and parked in the rear of the pizzeria.

As soon as I got out of my ride I was greeted by the smell of marinara and meat sauce pouring out of the building. As I walked in I felt someone staring at me. First thing I thought was ‘damn. Do I look that hungry?’ I found the individual who had locked on to me. A young woman, maybe early 20’s. She sat with what appeared to be two younger siblings. Something was a bit off though. As I placed my order at the counter she got up and headed to the arcade games. She was less than 5 steps away when one of the boys she was with shouted at her. His outburst was somewhat rude and shocking to those of us around. She made a noise and motioned towards the bright flashing screens. He said something and allowed her to head over there, but from his tone you could tell that he was very annoyed. Now it was very clear. She was the same but different. She was disabled. And to her brother, a burden.

I paid for my meal and stepped outside to take in the night air and check my voice mail. I had been neglecting my phone for a better part of the day. As I was listening to my messages she stepped outside. Clearly unsupervised and cognizant that she wasn’t supposed to be outside without permission, she looked around and paced the sidewalk while looking at the same sign that had caught my eye earlier. She wasn’t interested in the spaghetti though. She had already had a plate and maybe a slice or 2 of pizza. The balloons attached to the sign captivated her. She inched closer to it and reached out for one of the red ribbons attached to one of the balloons that was gently swaying in the breeze. Realizing that they were attached and not going to come so easily. She looked them up and down and assessed the situation and made a noise signifying her frustration. I took a glance at the balloons and immediately understood her frustration. The base was just a massive jumble of knots. She looked to me as if I might have an answer for her. I just looked at the knotty jumble and shrugged. I suggested to her to go up to the counter and ask one of the workers for a balloon. I was sure they would give her one. I didn’t really see a reason why they would say no. She walked up to the counter and asked for what she wanted in the best way that she could and before she could finish was rudely interrupted by her brother again telling her not to bother them and to come sit down. She made a protesting noise and I totally understood. Why sit at a table only to be neglected by the people you came with? Begrudgingly she walked over to the table and took her seat.

A few minutes later I was called up to the counter. My order was ready. Hell yes! I glanced over at the girl who now just had a vacant and distant look on her face. I asked the pizzeria girl if I could have a balloon with a ribbon or two tied to it. She looked at me and smiled. She knew what I was doing. I took the balloon over to the girl and told her to enjoy it. Then I gave her brother a look that let him know that I didn’t approve of him or his behavior towards his older sister. As I walked out with my spaghetti I overheard him say in a sickeningly sweet voice, ‘why didn’t you just tell me you wanted a balloon? I would’ve gotten one for you.’ I turned around and just looked at him. I’m sure he knew what I was thinking. She looked at me, smiled, and waved goodbye.

What I want to know is when did we lose our respect for each other? And when did our loved ones turn into so much of a burden that a simple and fun night out for pizza can become such an un-enjoyable hell for them due to their disability?