She decided later, that it was the gray that gave him away. The parentheses on each side of his tightened mouth, the tinges under his eyes, and the sheen of sweat over the unattended stubble on his face. Then again, it was also the shaking hands, unkempt rumpled clothing, and untied shoes. His eyes….they mirrored misery…abject misery. She waited for it, as she surreptitiously watched him…the frustration build up, anger spill, attempt at a former show of strength….and finally the quitting. One scarred hand turned the wheel of his chair away from the therapy room, while his shoulders shook beneath the drab gray shirt.
She knew. She knew it wasn’t the pain of the muscles made to work; it wasn’t the inability to move, or the dependence on others. She knew it was the question that shredded the soul. The “why”. Why him? Why now? What did it mean? Why God?
Copper knew the answer to this question, because it was one that raised its head over and over in her mind. Copper rolled her little red chair over to the man. She looked toward his back and quietly said, “I know the answer to your question.”
He raised his head and swiveled around sharply, “Look kid, I’m not in a good mood and don’t feel like talking’ a—”
“You don’t have to talk, and do I look like I don’t know about it?” Copper looked pointedly at her legs.
“I know,” he said with a small lift of his hand, “but I haven’t always been this way and haven’t had a long time to get used to it.”
“Neither have I,” Copper quietly said. She looked into his dark eyes and calmly waited.
He looked everywhere, and at nothing. He tried to ignore her but his eyes were drawn to the clear green eyes. Finally, with a long exhale of defeat, he said, “Okay kid, give it to me. What’s the answer?”
Copper leaned forward and whispered, “you think knowing why you, why now, why like this….will really and truly help?”
He looked into her eyes, hoping against hope that it would, and slowly…almost imperceptibly nodded.
“Yeah, I thought so too,” Copper said with a gentle smile. “No matter how you feel about why it happened, you will still be there…in the chair….You will still hurt, have to ask for help, be angry and frustrated….and knowing why will not change any of it. It’s wasted energy.”
Copper turned her chair away and then paused. She spoke with her back to him. “I think God expected too much intelligence from us. He doesn’t explain, because He thinks we know that we don’t need the explanation…and even if we got one, we would only ask more. Understanding all the “Whys” in the world will not fix me….or you. So, stop asking, and start moving. Life is not a fairytale, and no one is going to wave a magic wand…He may only grant you a breath….but that is enough. There is not one place where you can find that we are promised all good things. If he preserves us, as my grandmother said, by the skin of our teeth…then he has preserved us. Battle scars just mean we have been through battles… He did not say He would take anything away..He said He would give you strength. Sometimes it’s only just enough to take a ragged breath….” Copper looked pointedly at the door of the room, where a young woman stood. “Concentrating on “why” will only keep you from her…it’s not worth it.”
“You don’t understand, kid….you don’t know who I am.”
“Oh yeah……the music?” Copper asked, “Well, I don’t think it’s been your best, and since suffering is good for the artistic soul….your best is yet to come….so, get off your famous, artistic behind….and play some music.” The man’s eyes followed the little red chair as it zipped across the therapy room, then he turned to the woman looking at him with her heart in her beautiful blue eyes. He smiled, and her blue eyes overflowed with tears in relief…she had not seen that smile since before his accident, and it still caused her heart to jump!
Oz, Copper’s best friend, wondered who the limousine belonged to. It was conspicuously parked in front of Copper’s house. He patiently waited at his window and almost lost his breath when he saw the man. The man had an easy, leather, laid-back rocker look, which pushed him up on the “coolness” scale many levels. His boots were scuffed, his shades black, and his wheelchair as red as Copper’s. Copper leaned forward and spoke easily with the living legend, and Ozzie’s face split into a huge grin when the leather clad arm waved toward Oz’s bedroom. It only took Oz two seconds to be at Copper’s side.
“Oz, I was wondering if you would go with Liam to the airport? I have a therapy session, and I don’t want him to have to go alone,” Copper said with a smile.
Oz could not talk. His Adam’s apple convulsed but no sound emitted. “Go get your guitar Oz. We can have a good session on the way!” Said the musician with a smile. Oz’ feet flew.
“Goodbye, Copper, love. As always, call for anything!”
The critics said many things about his music. Most good, some not so much. There were so many who did not understand it, and therefore ridiculed it in their ignorance. But Copper knew.
“…a caged bird…beating…beating…against steel bars…..knowing each beat….drives the life away…..but I can’t stop…..Oh…..but I can’t stop…..can’t…….just breathe……and step away…….just breathe……and step into day…..”