I met Anthony at a Starbucks in Seattle, when he asked if the empty seat at my table was taken. He made himself comfortable with his coffee in the seat across from me, having noticed my leg in a cast took the other chair.
He looked into my eyes as I explained I’d broken my leg in several places a few weeks ago when I slipped on something my cat had spilled. Surgery and complications followed, and now I was mostly wheelchair bound with occasional forays on crutches. Today the Metro disability service had delivered me to this mini mall. Anthony asked about my pain, sleep, and prognosis. I didn’t know if he was a medical technician or a healer.
When I began to arrange my crutches to get up, he asked what I needed. He insisted on getting the water for my pain pill. I noticed he limped severely from his hip down. Then it was my turn to ask what had instigated his journey into gimpiness.
He said he’d been very lucky, because his VA benefits had allowed him to try the latest hydraulic prosthetic leg. He was excited to have just gotten it, though it was still difficult to put on in the morning.
At my urging, he told me he’d lost his leg in a freeway motorcycle accident last year. He’d been on his way home from the hospital, having finally gotten the all-clear from a round of treatment for leukemia. He’d called his sons to celebrate. It was a sunny day; traffic was flowing on I-5 North. Then, an oncoming car crossed the center line, smashing into him on his motorcycle. His next memory was the belt buckle of the policeman who was standing over him where he lay in the middle of the freeway.
Anthony soon found himself surrounded by medics and equipment, and being airlifted. A few days later one of his sons came to his hospital room to tell him his left leg was gone.
I interrupted Anthony, to catch my breath, and to tell him how bad I felt that here I was merely on crutches and planning to walk again, whereas he had lost his leg and was fetching me water to take my drugs.
He kept saying he knew how hard it was in the first days; the pain, the isolation, and that anyone would help me.
He then told me that he had been deliberately hit on the freeway by a serial murderer on a spree, who had eventually been killed by police. Anthony had later gone to the trial, to tell the murderer’s father that all was forgiven. His son had problems and it was not the father’s fault.
Then, Anthony, who would never walk on two legs again, might not ever have a woman again, and who endured hellish phantom pain, insisted on helping me to my crutches and to the door to catch my ride. We had exchanged phone numbers, because, he said, he knew what it was like not to be able to drive, and now that he could, he was determined to help others who could not.