Dan was funny and talented. He wrote poems, songs, played the guitar and sang, sometimes performing for various coffee houses or one of the locally somewhat underground etched out gathering places downtown.
Even with a few beers in him he remained smart enough to help my teenage son with his algebra homework–- something I was not equipped to do. He was also tall and handsome. Everyone liked him. They called him, simply, Big Dan. He made us all laugh. He was single and so was I. We were the same age. Needless to say, Dan and I had a passionate, though short-lived love affair. He passion to party didn’t mix well with my responsibilities raising a teenager.
Dan and I often met in the center of downtown where the local teenagers, tourists and foot-travelers were having fun or stopping for a rest. This was the downtown Asheville we knew before the 100 year lease on the Vance Monument ran out, leaving its reasons for existing to be annihilated by the local powers that be.
Our cultural downtown oasis would soon be over but that summer, before it all changed, Dan and I were wonderful lovers.
I often sat in the sun warmed grass around the monument while Dan played his guitar, an action he would later purposefully get himself a city citation for, due to his not having a license to play an instrument downtown. He thought this was funny and looked forward to his court date.
“Have you applied for disability benefits?” he asked me one day.
I was taken aback. “What for?” I responded. The word disabled conjured up the image of my father. He had been disabled. I wasn’t like my father I thought.
“How long have you been out of work?” he continued. Dan worked at a group home and was educated on the subject of disability.
“It’s been about three years,” I answered. Hearing myself say three years did sound like a long time.
Looking surprised he said, “Depression is a disability and you can get help because of it.”
I remember that day. I remember the grass. I can still remember how it felt to sit there with Dan. It felt really good.
I would slowly begin to realize many things about my life; the history of it; how and why it played out the way it had — and myself — I would in some ways meet myself for the first time in my mid-thirties.
It would be six months after that sunny warm day with Dan that I walked into the Social Security Administration’s local office.
“I have an appointment,” I said to the clerk.
“What are you here for today Mam?” she asked.
I leaned forward a little, self-consciously lowering my voice. “I’m here to apply for disability benefits.”
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