So, I might as well do this now, since I feel a little down at the moment, anyway. No need to kill a good mood later by being all sappy!
At the mall on Saturday, I was overheated and felt whiny, so I went out to sit in the open by a fountain, where it was cooler and there was no one to tempt me to complain that I was in a mall (and I would have, even though it was actually a fairly nifty mall - the ratio of stores that I would go into vs. stores that make me loathe humanity was quite rich). I was sitting next to a small staircase, maybe seven or eight steps - and next to it was a ramp, perhaps ten feet long at its hypotenuse.
As I watched, a boy - he *might* have been 21, but if so, he will be carded until he is forty - approached the ramp and gamely started wheeling up it. It was clearly hard work, but he was doing it.
There was nothing special to this sight so far; kid in a wheelchair goes up a handicapped-access ramp. I don't have a disability squick, so it wouldn't have stood out to me at all - except for the fact that he couldn't quite make it. He got three quarters of the way up, and could not go any farther.
He stopped. He grabbed the railing and hung on for a few seconds, to rest. He tried again. He went into a wheelie, and I started to rise to help him - I would not normally interfere with a stranger with a disability unless asked, but when I weigh preserving dignity vs. preventing concussion, I choose the one that keeps people out of hospitals. He had props on the back of the chair, though - good design, that! - so he only tilted back so far before landing on them. So *that* was all right, anyway.
He tried again, failed to move forward again, rested again, popped another wheelie. A passerby offered to help; the boy waved the man off (my instinct to leave him alone was correct, obviously). He tried angling his wheels to lessen the effect of gravity. He tried forcing himself up with main strength again. None of it got him up the last two feet of slope - and nothing else would, either, because he gave up. He turned his chair around, and rolled back down the ramp and out into the main walkway again.
I had been watching, of course (how else would I have seen?), but it was... impersonal, like watching a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis or a baby bird learning to fly - not even people-watching, just nature-watching. We like to forget, but we are animals as much as any other creature on this planet, and we have our life-cycles, too - even if this situation involved completely artificial aspects, what I saw was a painful struggle, no less real because it was not life or death. As he abandoned his attempt to reach the higher level, though, I looked away; when *my* tenacity fails, I don't want witnesses. The look on his face supported me in that action, and the illusion of privacy in this public place was the only thing I could give him.
Sea turtles lay their eggs on the beach, and the newly-hatched baby turtles instinctively head for the water and its relative safety as soon as they leave the shell. Many of them never make it. Having that knowledge and seeing this event both hit me in the exact same place... it just plain makes me want to cry.