To The Homeless Man on Michigan Avenue with Swollen Legs

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry I pretended to look the other direction, all the while gaping at your legs. Your legs that looked like they should be on a different body. Cracked, dry, swollen to twice the size of your emaciated upper body.

I’m sorry I walked by like you were less than a person as you hid your face from those you needed money from. You hid your face from me, head bowed low like the people ignoring you were sucking out your humanity. I wish I could look into your eyes and tell you:

I’m sorry, because even though I pretended not to look, I saw the gaping wound on the side of your leg—pink and white flesh opened up like a flower blooming in the desert of your dark, dry legs. The hole was as wide as two of my fists, and I saw how maybe your head was bowed in pain, as well as humiliation.

I’m sorry, because even if a doctor took your legs—and maybe some of the physical pain along with them—you will never lose the memories. Memories like a mom whispering to her child that you are disgusting, just because of fluid in your legs and a sore you didn’t ask for in the first place.

I’m sorry that that child only quietly corrected their mom instead of turning around and putting money into your outstretched hand. Instead of validating your humanity with a smile. Instead of offering words of consolation. I whispered, “That must be painful,” but I did nothing.

I’m sorry, because you are just as human as I, but I gave you less attention than the cute dogs trotting by or the paintings displayed in the museum.

I’m sorry, but sorry is not enough.

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