I am late for work. I’m often late for work – I’m at a job I don’t like and do not feel at all motivated to get there. But money and the lack of it has taught me that showing up helps.There’s an onion there by the side of the road where the street meets the sidewalk. A big, red onion. I don’t know what it’s doing there, but it’s there. It brings back memories. Some days all I see is memories.
I hurry to the subway, a tall blonde woman blocking my urgent passage as she finds it necessary to walk slowly down the stairs reading her newspaper. Making my way down the platform, I see a couple – part of a pretty woman’s face and a bearded man in an overcoat. He looks plain and quite boring, and the woman is young, ripe and full of promise. I wonder what she sees in him and I notice her alive eyes as she looks at him.
The train arrives and soon I will be at the publishing job I no longer care for, editing bestsellers that have no pulse, having thoughtful discussions with people who say a lot and a lot of nothing. The stop before mine, a woman gets in, tight jeans, surgery or Botox enhanced lips and more product on her head than hair. She is pouty and looks like she has to spend a good amount of time every morning to look that way. Glamorous. She does nothing for me, though several of the men in the car are quite taken with her tight, figure hugging jeans. I am not. She’s not my type. Which makes me think of my type. I don’t have a type. It feels like going to the grocery store and pointing to the brand of coffee or ice cream that you like and crave. How about calmness and serenity, the opposite of what I’ve been most of my life. How about a smile, a laugh, carefree abandon, living for the now, not worrying about tomorrow. Who gets easily excited about little things, like snails on a plant in a concrete bed, or grasshoppers walking lumberingly across a grassless field in early spring. And musically and artistically talented or curious. But wrapped within a pleasing exterior, with gentle eyes, the windows. Outside of the pleasing exterior, my type is beginning to sound a lot like me. Narcissus, are you there?
The work day is over, I leave the office behind and head to NYU, where a friend has invited me to a film screening. The movie is about a straight woman who decides to have a baby with a dear friend who is gay. Not a gay movie, but a comedy about connection. I don’t find it very funny, but I connect with it.
The movie is done, I part with my friend, and head to Union Square to take the train home. There’s a homeless man at the bottom of the stairs, asking people in a raspy, hoarse voice to spare some change. I don’t look up as I continue forward, but there’s something in his voice. I turn around and look at him. He is old and wrinkled and his clothes are tattered. He looks helpless. My emotional armor of ignoring yet another homeless person is broken. My resolution is gone – to give homeless people food but not money because they might spend the money on drugs or alcohol. In this moment, the armor of heartlessness and judgement is gone, the armor that is in place to protect me from the helplessness that comes with letting in the pain of another and not being able to permanently improve that person’s life. In this moment, all I can do is try to help ease this man’s suffering, for this moment. Further down, I see another homeless man, he also asks for change. I hurry on, thinking how many can I help, but I am compelled to stop and give him a dollar. I feel sad that there are so many faceless, unseen people in the city, in all cities I’ve visited. I feel. I walk. I sit on the train. I am one among many. Gone is Narcissus. Now is wonder. How does it all happen? What does it all add up to? What is the meaning of life – a question that has senselessly plagued me most of my life, is starkly irrelevant in this moment. To be kind, to see, to reach out to another, is all I can do, to give, to observe, to see. To be. To be. To be.
Later, I think of the old man with the hoarse, raspy voice. What’s his story? How did he come to be there? Does he have a family, a brother, a sister, children? Did he live somewhere at one point in time? Did he or does he have a partner? What does he do at night? It’s cold outside, bitterly cold. Who will love this man? Who will hold him at night? What does he feel inside? I am sad that I cannot be god-like and completely take away his suffering. I am sad for I feel his suffering, no matter how he came about it. In this moment, all I can do is wish for his happiness. And if the universe and the flow of energy works in such a way, then let me go through obstacles if that will help ease his suffering. There’s sadness in my heart, and warmth and compassion within.
© 2013 Marlon de Souza. All rights reserved.