But, today one could hardly find reason to scorn my following. In fact, the old hunched-over man I was following actually encouraged it. He walked in front of me and those traversing the same sidewalk as I with the verve and purpose of a general leading soldiers into battle. Before we crossed a street, he would motion for us to move back. Maybe he was reliving the past and maybe he was refashioning the present.
He had neither badges, nor epaulets, nor uniform of any kind to prove his rank. Just the wrinkles to suggest such wisdom had been acquired. And you could see it in his face. The sternness, the stress that came with the duty of guiding the young across the treacherous terrain. But, there he was to motion us forward when it was time.
Now, the time came when our light turned green. But, do not think for a second that The General took direction from lights. Direction from electricity? From any technological advancement? Ba-hah! I laugh! The General laughed!
The General went by instinct. Went by what he had known and seen. We had all, of course, crossed streets before. Some of us had even crossed a few streets en route to this current one. And the dangers that awaited us at the cross of this new street (cars, bikes, cars, some trucks, maybe one of those weird three-wheeled golf carts that the police drive when they’re bored, and definitely more cars) came without a shrug of the shoulder.
But, like a parent who warns a child about dangers they never knew were there-that fire can burn, that water can drown, that escalators can catch a lace and tear your leg off-The General let us know that he would hold our hand (not literally because he was still, after all, a general) until we were big enough to get by on our own. He had seen much and done much, as well. And, of much more, no one would expect him to do. But, there he was to take the first step. Like any good general.
Most people passed him. He did move slow. But, I stayed with him for a while. And he stopped the column of people and motioned them forward at the proper time at each and every street crossing. Eventually, though, I too had to go my own way.
But, I like to think of him going home proud. Going home happy, having fulfilled his mission for the day. Sitting at a round table and recounting all the grandeur of his victorious exploits to the ceramic busts of Julius Cesar and Ludwig von Beethoven-not because he was crazy. Do not be mistaken. He did not think Beethoven was a commander, too. But there is, after all, a general lack of variety in available busts.
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