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The heat swelters. It’s 5PM, and a tide of people flow through the gates, onto the streets, and into the claps and cheers of friends, brothers, and sisters. Hugs from family. Hand shakes. Kisses. Nobody goes out alone, really. Everybody has somebody to walk with, and there is always someone at the gate waiting for a particular person.

Except this man. He is older than most who are waiting, but he is not the oldest among those who have gone out. His skin is dark from years of hard work, and his face bears the mark of a man who has seen too much and has lived too much. He’s wearing a simple, button-down blue polo shirt, slightly wrinkled, but one can see that it was meticulously ironed at dawn this morning. Together with the shirt, he wears a pair of black slacks that altogether do not fit right. One can see he is an old man. His shoes, on the other hand, are lace-up leather, akin to what a grade school child would wear the first day of school when he forgot to buy new shoes for the new year.

His attire speaks of a somber, old man. His shoes scrape like the embers of a childhood dream. He dressed up for this—to the best of what he is able to do. To him, this day is very special. But his steps echo the tired walk of a man who is out of his depth.

He is alone, which is not unheard of but remarkable. Others like him have passed that long stretch before—one grandfather, and about two men and a woman being pushed in a wheelchair. The people clapped for them. Nobody notices him. He walks slowly, each step by painful step. He doesn’t expect anybody to wait for him, and his eyes, though looking straight ahead, are glazed.

He is passed by others who hurry to the people ready to ease their burden after a taxing day. He lets them. Because he walks a defeated man amongst heavily favored victors. An old person whose prime has clearly passed by him—and he knows it.

Nevertheless, this doesn’t stop him from walking away. So that next week, he can march back to Taft. Bet you, next Sunday, he’ll be there at 5AM. Maybe still alone. With his button-down polo, uncomfortable slacks, and school-day shoes. He’ll be there. Because he has given up so much to reach this far—that to give up a small chance of making so big a change to his life is an insult to all his years of hard work and sacrifice. He must know that out of all the people there, his chance is among the least; however, he will not give up that chance.

He never did, before. He does not plan on doing so now.

And I hope, I really, really pray like I’ve never prayed before, that come November, he will finally get his just reward.


The Days Go By

September 2010
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