Daily Prompt: The Curse of Concern

The WordPress Daily Prompt for August 5 asks us to play voyeur in our own lives: “We often capture strangers in photos we take in public. Open your photo library, and stop at the first picture that features a person you don’t know. Now tell the story of that person.”

I do not know the attractive couple entering the photo above from the left side of the frame, but that is okay, as I did not take the photo, and this is not about them. If I had a steadier hand with the photo editing Clone Stamp tool, they would be an oddly tall bush of purple flowers or a stack of blue Peroni umbrellas or two copies of that bicycle that they are walking towards. My hand is not that steady, so their brief moment together (are they still together?) was spared awkward editing. May the rest of their lives together or apart continue to be free of terrible editing decisions or deletion by a heavy-handed photo perfectionist.

But the photo above sets the scene:

It is May. My beloved and I are eating brunch at the table under the Peroni umbrella that is all the way to the right in the photo above. We are at DePasquale Square on Federal Hill in Providence, Rhode Island, in an outdoors restaurant called Caffe Dolce Vita. After brunch, we walk to about where the above picture was taken, turn around, and she takes this photo of me:

providence riB

Two things: One, with spinal muscular atrophy type 3 or 4, which is what I have, sitting on a hard but rounded surface like the fountain I am sitting on instead feels for me like I am sitting on the edge of a plane sending troops into a war zone and the sarge is about to kick me out even though I do not yet have my parachute strapped on, so I am sitting on my cane for stability; two, that man behind me is strolling along the same fountain as if it is wider than a mere tightrope … with a child in his arms.

I knew I was going to hear a splash before it never happened. You can even almost make out the look of concerned anticipation on the face of the elderly woman sitting closer to the street. (Well, I can, now.) So a fall into the fountain by father and child was inevitable because it was already seen in the eyes of a worried old person, like a curse, the curse of concern. There is no worse curse than that, the curse of anonymous concern, because it is often followed by the worst four-word sequence in the English language: “You should not have … .”

“You should not have” shown your child the sun-dappled fountain up close as if the world was his and he can touch the sun itself in your safe arms.

Perhaps the curse of concern really is a curse only in the idea that you will hear from loved ones and strangers alike—loved ones as if they are strangers: “I didn’t think you could do it,” and strangers as if they are as close as loved ones: “I didn’t think you ought to have tried”—about their ability to foresee your future failure or your imperfect success.

I respect “I told you so” from people more, because, if it is spoken truthfully, perhaps the speaker had indeed offered advice that I had ignored or implemented poorly. “You should not have” is blaming me for your impotence at controlling the most recent past. I bring this up in order to confess that too often, I am that “concerned bystander” about to ex post facto say “Tsk” at someone about something they should not have done, but did do.

So I did not say anything, not anything at all, to the father and child behind me before I used my cane to grab his ankle and trip them into the fountain.

(I might have made up part of this story: I do know the couple in the photo at top.)

Please comment here. Thank you, Mark.

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