Category Archives: Stories

Embrace your greenery

Copyright 2018 Marlon de Souza. All rights reserved.

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The tides of your life

On this side is Cramond Village. On the other side is Cramond Island. If you pay attention to the tides, you can walk across to Cramond Island.

If you tune in to the tides of your life, you can walk on water

A short life

It’s past midnight. I’m on the second walk of the night with my dog, Jules, who needs to empty her bladder yet again – she’s been drinking a lot of water to cool herself – it’s been unseasonably warm and very humid lately – that, and the fact that she suffers from incontinence. Yes, we have a good life. I have to drag, coax and charm her into walking for more than a block as she’s quite content to return home with an unemptied bladder and then look at me in distress after a half hour, or worse, wake me up in the middle of the night to take her out. So we walk several blocks before turning around.

Raccoons screech from across the street, inside Central Park – Jules stops and fixates on the racket. This is normal on a late night walk. By now, I’ve gotten used to stopping to indulge her curiosity – much like the way she freezes in place when stalking squirrels she’ll never catch.

We turn the corner to my street and Jules stops briefly to sniff a tiny branch on the sidewalk. I steer her away from it as it looks like dog shit. When I take a look at it though, it’s a small bird, a chick, dying. I’ve seen smaller birds before on the street, very tiny infants, newborns not more than an inch long. This one is bigger, about three inches from head to tail. It has a big, mostly bald head and blackish feathers, a baby blackbird, maybe – I can’t tell. I guess it probably fell out of its nest – it’s clearly not fully grown and I just don’t know why it would fall out of its nest after midnight. Shouldn’t it have been asleep in its nest then? One of its legs stretches out. For a half second, I want to save it, but intuitively, I know it’s dying. I don’t want to leave it there in case someone steps on it or a passing dog plays with it. I think of breaking the bird’s neck to put it out of its suffering. Thoughts of interfering with the cycle of life and death run through my mind, alongside my not wanting the bird  to suffer. Jules politely stays put when I tie the end of her leash to the fence of the building next door.

I bend down and lightly stroke the bird’s head. I gently caress its wing. There’s also very light trepidation that it might turn around and peck my finger. That does not happen.

A neighbor passes by with his dog, inquiring what’s going on. I tell him I’m thinking of breaking the bird’s neck to put it out of its suffering. He agrees, and adds, “Or you can try and save it.” I say, yes, I could take it home but I don’t think it will make it through the night and the Wild Bird Fund is not open now. I’ve taken injured birds before to the Wild Bird Fund, not very far from where I live in Manhattan. They do a good job of rehabilitating injured birds when it’s possible to do so. I’m glad my neighbor suggested saving the bird, because just a few seconds earlier I’d seen a wing twitch. My neighbor also suggested giving the bird drops of water through a dropper.

I pick the bird up in a small, open plastic bag and carry it home, with Jules by my side. Its eyes are shut and as I hold it in my hand, it appears that it has died, that the twitching of one wing might have been the last sigh before it died. Its legs are not moving. I get home, place it on a plate. It’s not moving; its eyes are still shut. I stroke its chest, its wing. I’m very sad at this point – encountering death firsthand usually makes me sad as I am faced with the fragility of life. I have incessantly questioned the meaning of life since I was a teen. The question is near at hand at this moment but it’s of no consequence right now – all I can see and feel is this bird that was here, and now it’s gone, dead on this plate in my house.

Jules is silently observing all of this. She’s a good reader of energy. As I put the dead bird in a plastic bag and get ready to drop it down the garbage chute, I wonder what the difference was between the bird dying on the sidewalk and letting its body lay there versus its dead body in the plastic bag and down my garbage chute. I don’t see a difference from the bird’s perspective. Some Buddhists and certain other religious practitioners will tell me that I did a good deed, that it was my intention that mattered. I think once the bird died, my intention and my actions were of no consequence to the bird anymore. It seems to me right now, intentions are only relevant in the context of a spiritual mind fuck. I’m not here to collect bonus karmic points.

I did not know that the bird had already died when I picked it up, trying to save it. I don’t know why I did it though. Whether I was trying to save it even though I knew it was going to die very soon, or whether I wanted to give it a peaceful, dignified death. Or maybe I just wanted to be kind to another. All of no consequence to a dying bird. Or to a dead bird. Or maybe not.

© 2015 Marlon de Souza. All rights reserved.

Caw-caw, says the crow

The crow kept cawing from over there, under the green awning, just off the empty lawn. Its sound was now becoming annoying so I went over to see this thing that had disturbed my peace. It was perched just under the awning, going awk-awk.

Hmmm, awk-awk? How interesting – I’ve never heard a crow go caw-caw, I thought, the way we were taught in kindergarten.

But as I listened closely, its call did sound like caw-caw with a guttural awk-awk in there. I looked down on the lawn to see whether it was calling to another crow. There were no crows nearby and none in the distance. A few sparrows, a pigeon. But no crows. Maybe it was calling to attract a companion. Its body matched the intensity and fervor of its call. Crouched, chest pulled in, head sticking out and cawk-cawk, cawk-cawk

I listened to it for a few minutes and then moved a couple of subtle steps in its direction to get a better look at this now captivating scavenger. A shiny black beak, long too, and black wings ending their color at the precise point where they merged with its light battleship gray body. A good-looking bird, quick of eye, as it noticed my not so subtle move closer and prepared to launch. In response, I backed off lest it fly away. I resumed my seat a few feet behind the awning, no longer disturbed but enjoying the continued call of my brother or sister, the crow. cawk-cawk.

© 2014 Marlon de Souza. All rights reserved.

Homeless

This morning I got on the train and right there on one of the seats was a homeless man, with a trolley filled with his stuff, numerous giant plastic bags and a couple of smaller ones. He smelled. I looked away from him as I wanted to get away, to another car, or at least to the other end of the car I’d entered. I don’t know how he came to be homeless, or if he was mentally and psychologically beyond being able to help himself. He probably was. What can I do for him, more than helping him with a dollar or some food, I thought. I found a seat about twenty feet away and kept leaning forward to see his face, but he was hunched over. There were other people seated closer to him. Like me, no one did a thing. No one can do anything, I thought, to bring about lasting change to someone in this situation. Unless you dedicate all your energy to saving someone. Then maybe. But if they’re not saving themselves or if they’re not able to or have any desire to, what then? What can be done? What can be done? What can be done if, like me, you choose to not devote all you have to helping the homeless or those in need who cannot help themselves? I don’t know. It’s a good question to contemplate on, I now feel.

I looked into my bag to see if I had a piece of fruit or food I could share, but all I had was bread and an avocado. And I didn’t want to give away all my bread and the man had no teeth, I remembered from the very brief glimpse I got of him earlier. I was aware I was justifying my not wanting to share the bread I really liked. But also, when I’ve tried to share my food with toothless homeless people, they’ve often declined the food and asked for money instead. I wanted to go up and talk to the man but what if he didn’t want to talk to me? I didn’t want to be embarrassed in front of the other people in the car, people I would never again see and whose opinion of me did not and should not matter. But it also could have been intrusive to go up and talk to a homeless person just because the person is homeless…what if he saw it as pity, what if it was pity – I don’t like to be pitied when I’m down, not sure that others do…it’s not like I was sitting next to him and starting a conversation just like that.

I decided to give him some money instead. My stop was coming up, so I walked up to the door nearest the man and gave him the money. He thanked me in what sounded like a female voice. I looked at the person’s face. It was a woman. She was old and wrinkled and she had no teeth. She looked tired and weary. She looked at the bill I gave her. I tried to not stare at her and instead looked at her from my peripheral vision. I wanted to talk to her…to talk to her. I looked out from the corner of my eye to see if others would be inspired to give her money too. No one else did, at least not until I got off the train. I wish I could have spoken to her for a little bit. I wonder if she feels alone. I wonder how she feels. I’ll never know. I realized that even if I gave her a hundred dollars, it probably would not change her situation. Still, it’s not enjoyable to have no place to live and no one to take care of you or to be unable to take care of yourself. No one consciously chooses to be homeless. Things happen. It could be me. It could be me. I wish you comfort and peace, lady.

© 2014 Marlon de Souza. All rights reserved.

There

Mid-morning on a late spring day. St Bart’s Church. A place of refuge. It is empty. I wander in and sit on a chair. A place to rest. From up ahead, I hear pagan music. I feel home. By the altar, a small group of people are practicing tai chi. I am reconnected with my ancestors, the sound and energy of my people, who honored and lived in harmony with the way, before voluntarily or forcibly giving it all up for organized religion and defined, dogmatic gods. I am aware of the irony of this space and other such spaces – I am sitting in a beautiful church, a monument to life undiluted, unlimited, undefined, whose architecture soars above the limited religious message that some might  choose to leave with, as often was the case in the churches of my childhood. It has been a lifetime since I detested and dreaded being confined to the beautiful architecture of places such as this, places which represented at one time my battle for self-expression with religious forces within family and community. I no more have points to prove, platforms to prop up or demolish – with Christianity or any other organized religion. People do what they do because they don’t know any better or any different. The architecture within St. Bart’s transports me to another time. A mosquito rests on my shirt. A fellow traveler with a trolley bag strolls in and sits down. More visitors. Soon, I leave this beautiful pagan space. A few blocks away, a baby in a carriage tugs at its toes and smiles at me, eyes twinkling. It’s god. Not in a church, but just there, playing with her toes.

© 2013 Marlon de Souza. All rights reserved.

An accident

Her story
So I’m walking with Melissa this morning and sometimes, you know, she just likes to stop and examine things, right in the middle of the street, no reason at all, just because she wants to. And I don’t stop her. So there we were, I’m looking at my little girl, and suddenly this man and his dog bump into me, almost knocking me over. Nothing happened to Melissa, thank god, or I’d have killed the man.

I turn to the man and I says, I’m flustered, I’m trying to regain my composure and I says, “Excuse me, sir, you almost knocked me over.”

He goes, “Well, I’m sorry, but I didn’t mean to bump into you. You were looking at your daughter, and I was looking at my dog.”

Who cares about his dog?! You almost knocked me down! But I’m polite, so I says, “Sir, I believe you owe me an apology.” He rolls his eyes at me. I almost bust a vein. I’m glaring at him now, but he refuses to apologize, just refuses. And he speaks with a posh accent and all, like he went to some fancy school.

So I says to him, “Sir, you should apologize, and you should be more considerate.”

Now he’s looking at me like I’m crazy. I’m getting all worked up, I’m usually calm, but I cannot tolerate someone with an attitude.

So I let him have it. “You know something, that’s not how we do things in this country. I curse you. I never curse anyone, but I curse you.”

You know, I’m not a racist, but you could see this man has, you know, an attitude or something. European or Middle Eastern, who knows where he came from. Greek. Olive skinned. I says, “I know how your type treats women. You should go back to where you came from.” You don’t want to mess with me. I’m nice, but to a point.

And you know what he tells me? He tells me he’s from Iowa, he’s visiting his parents. I laughed. I’m sorry, but it was just too funny. And if he’s from Iowa, that was such a lameass lie. His parents? Hah! It has to be the Julynns – only they would adopt someone from the Third World when there are so many homeless children in this country.

He had a golden retriever puppy with him. So I ask him, “Whose dog is that?” It’s his dog, he says.

But I wasn’t born yesterday, so I says to him, “Really? Well, I’m going to find out whose dog that is and tell them how their dog walker behaves.”

I told him I’d call Homeland Security on him. That took him down a few and he took off. Crazy, just crazy.

His story
I bumped into the woman even though I was trying to avoid bumping into her. I was trying to go around her with my dog and she was walking with her baby, and understandably, they were, you know, taking time with their steps. So I tried to walk around them, because they were right in the middle of the entryway to my parents’ building. So anyway, I bump into her and I say, “Excuse me.”

“Can’t you see where you’re going?” she said.

I said, “Well, I’m sorry but neither of us was watching where we were going. I was looking at my dog, and you were looking at your baby. I’m sorry, but I didn’t mean to bump into you.”

“Well, you should watch where you’re going”, she replied.

“Huh? Well, uh, I did say I was sorry, but you were looking at your baby and I was looking at my dog, and so we bumped into each other.” I might have rolled my eyes at this point.

“I curse you,” she said, “and I never curse,” letting me know the intensity of her displeasure. She went on, “I never curse, but I curse you.”

Oops, I thought and decided to ignore that. I looked at her blankly, somewhat bewildered at this unpleasant turn of events, as I made my way into my parents’ building.

“I know how your type treats women,” she went on, “You should go back to where you came from.” Well, it looked like she was saying I should go back to some foreign country, but I was born right there, in Iowa. So I turn around and tell her, “Lady, I’m sorry you’re having a bad day, but uh, I was born right here in Des Moines, in this building, and I’m here to see my parents. I don’t know what’s up with you, but I gotta go.”

I don’t know what she found so funny about that, but she laughed indignantly. “You want to know what’s up with me? You are what’s up with me,” she said. “Whose dog is that?” she asked about my dog. I told her that he was my dog.

“Really?” she said, sarcastically. “Well, I’m going to find out whose dog that is and tell them how their dog walker behaves. I should call Homeland Security on you.”

Some days, you just can’t win, I thought and walked away from the woman. She kept calling out after me, but soon I was in the elevator, safely insulated. Through it all, her daughter was very quiet, as was my dog. Later that evening, while we were out to dinner, my parents told me I had met Mrs. Sanderson, the neighborhood guardian against all things remotely foreign and terroristic.

© 2013 Marlon de Souza. All rights reserved.

Rose

I arrived at the bus stop. There she was again, this time sitting on a bench at the bus stop, looking out for her bus. I turned around and faced away from her – I didn’t really want to hear more of her stories this time, they would probably be the same and I’d heard them once already. Her face was unmistakable – gaunt cheeks that made her big eyes look bigger, her high cheek bones protruding close to her eyes; her cheeks devoid of makeup, and her wrinkled lips standing out – painted a deep red. I turned around slyly to look at her – she did have makeup on her cheeks, but apparently done so subtly as to be not instantly noticeable. She must have been in her seventies. She had on the same big gold earrings and was hunched over in the same heavy coat above the thick turtleneck she was wearing the last time I saw her. I’d forgotten her name and was tempted to approach and make conversation, but just to get her name, that did not feel right. I knew if I jogged my memory, it would come to me.

I was waiting for the bus last week, tired, seated on a bench and nodding off. A hand touched me and I heard someone ask me what I had in the big box. I looked up and saw an old, wrinkled woman with big watery eyes. It was an air mattress, I said. She asked me what that was, an air mattress. I was somewhat surprised that she didn’t know what an air mattress was – the picture was on the box. I told her you blew it up and it worked like an extra bed. She was quite impressed at this apparently new invention. I was surprised that she was impressed. She was much older than me and it seemed unusual that she didn’t know what an air mattress was. But stranger things have happened. Her eyes were bright, alert, if protruding from her face. She asked me where I was from. “India,” I replied. “The most beautiful people are from India,” she said, “India and Africa. They have the best skin.” I didn’t argue with this vote of confidence, even though it was clear that that praise was being directed my way because of a group I belonged to, through the accident of birth. I’ve never had any ethnic or religious pride – being a human is perhaps the only group identity I’ve been somewhat comfortable with, much to the dismay of friends and family. Of course, I was at a bus stop, and she didn’t ask for my metaphysical position on where it was that I truly belonged, so I didn’t say anything. Instead, I asked her where she was from. She mentioned France, or maybe it was one of the other European countries. I know that’s not very helpful; it wasn’t Spain, it wasn’t England, it wasn’t Germany, maybe it was Switzerland. No, it was probably France. I must have asked her how long she was in New York, or what she did for a living, because she told me she was retired. At this point, I told her my name and asked her who she was. “Rose,” she said. She mentioned her last name too, but I’ll just refer to her as Rose. She was surprised at my non-Indian sounding name and I gave her a brief tutorial into the joys of the Inquisition and the noble role of a certain revered Catholic saint in India’s history.

I remember now – it wasn’t France, it was Venezuela. I remember that because she told me she’d married a black man and her family disowned her after that. I recall being a bit taken aback at such strong racism in South America. She said her son went to visit her family in Caracas at the age of twenty and he came back very depressed because the family rejected him because he had a black father. He asked his mother why she had to have married a nigger. She repeated this several times in our conversation.

In the early fifties, Rose had come to New York to study. She had divorced her first husband in Venezuela, a forgettable man who she did not mention again, and she was looking for a new life. She was fond of jazz and when she came to New York, she’d go to the jazz clubs in Harlem, where she met her second husband, a well-known jazz musician, now deceased, who I’ll call Bill. According to Rose, Black men had such beautiful skin and it was hard to resist this dashing man who swept me of my feet.

My parents didn’t like it one bit, I married a nigger, they said and they disowned me. But I was in love. And then we had a baby, my son, who always said to me, “Why did you have to marry a nigger!”

I asked her where her son was now. Did he become a musician too?

No, he died when he was young. He came back from Venezuela and died of a broken heart. I told him to not go. “They won’t accept you,” I said. “No,” he said. He was headstrong, “They are my family, I want to meet them.” He went there, they didn’t want to talk to him. I told him, he wouldn’t listen. He came back, he took drugs, and he died. I couldn’t do anything.

“You didn’t try to have more children,” I asked.

Oh no, I divorced Bill two years after we got married. He had many girlfriends. I told him, “Bill, I know what you’re doing.” I knew he was sleeping with other women. He was a musician, it was normal for them to play late into the night, and then these women would throw themselves at him. So I divorced him. And then I showed him. I told him, “Bill, you watch me now. You had all those girlfriends, now you see what I can do.” Her eyes lit up at this point, a combination of glee and vengeance in them. I slept with his friends, I slept with other musicians. He told me, “Rose, what are you doing? These are my colleagues, you’re embarrassing me.” I told him, “Bill, you had your chance. Now it’s my turn. I told you I was going to do it.” I had a job at the UN at the time, African diplomats were after me, the ambassador of Kenya. Another fellow wanted to marry me.

I asked her if she didn’t remarry?

No, marriage should not be allowed. You cannot stay faithful in marriage. To have sex with the same person for the rest of your life?! After two years, you get tired of the same person and then you have affairs. Why be married if you are going to have affairs?

“Were you ever married?” she asked me, probably observantly noticing the absence of a ring on my finger. I told her it was a long time ago.

“What do you do now, for work?” I asked.

She told me she had worked as a steno-secretary at the UN and now she was retired. Now I go to concerts, I have my pension, and I go to the museum and enjoy my life.

“Do you cook often?” I asked. I’m often interested in the food habits of strangers, I don’t know why.

Oh no, I don’t cook. I just order food. Cooking is too much.

The bus pulled up. It was crowded. I waited for Rose to get in, but she walked back to the bench at the bus stop, choosing to wait for a less crowded bus.

When I saw her again the second time, she did the same thing – she declined to board a crowded bus and waited for an empty bus instead. When I got on the bus, I saw Rose sitting on a bench at the bus stop, looking out for the next bus. To her right, was a young woman, not quite twenty-five, standing proudly to the world, listening to music on her iPod. I wondered at the progression of age, there, an old woman, who’d seen a lot over the years, and next to her, a woman in the prime of youth, who one day might be wrinkled like Rose, though perhaps with no less pride. And what will become of me, I wondered – that one way track also has a spot reserved for me. Maybe I’ll be like some of the males in my family, feeble of mind and robust of physical bearing, though perhaps the opposite might be slightly more desirable. Or not. To be discovered.

© 2013 Marlon de Souza. All rights reserved.

A walk interrupted

I was returning from a walk with my dog and along the way, I noticed a crowd on the other side of the street. Many smartphones were visible, and it became apparent to me that something was going on on the sidewalk that was being filmed. From across the street, it was hard to tell what that was. At a distance from the crowd, a flock of pigeons descended to eat rice thrown on the sidewalk. From where I was, I saw what appeared to be a wild animal in distress, surrounded by curious onlookers. It seemed to me quite callous that the crowd was doing nothing to relieve the animal’s distress, but instead filming it for its apparent novelty value. I hurried across the street with my dog to see what I could do to help the animal.
In the middle of the sidewalk was a hawk, unmoving, its legs apparently stuck on a blackish block beneath. Was this someone’s idea of sport, I wondered. Then the block moved – it wasn’t a block, but a pigeon that the hawk was holding in its talons. The pigeon was still alive and struggling to escape, but the hawk kept it down. I was struck by the beauty of nature on its own. As people drew closer to film this, the hawk, holding on to the pigeon, flew up just enough to clear and land on the other side of a fence bordering the sidewalk. The crowd closed in on the fence to look at the spectacle. I stayed where I was because I did not want to violate the hawk’s space. I noticed my ego giving itself a pat on the back for my apparent compassion: unlike the others there, I’m respecting the hawk’s space. Perhaps the more respectful thing to do would be to leave so that there was one less person interrupting the hawk from completing what it needed to do with the pigeon.
The hawk looked alarmed and on alert. It appeared to be torn between trying to restrain the still alive pigeon and guarding its prey from the curious, but perhaps, from its perspective, threatening crowd. A teenager called to her boyfriend to come watch because the hawk was killing the poor bird. Further up on the sidewalk, the flock of pigeons seemed undisturbed from the events here and continued with their periodic descent and ascent, as they followed a man anointing the ground with rice. The pigeon in the hawk’s grasp struggled again, causing the hawk to adjust its balance and turn around. That was my cue to leave. The longer the crowd is here, including me, the longer the hawk will be guarding its prey instead of tearing its flesh and putting an end to the struggle. I realized that a scene such as this is fascinating because, much like the other gawkers and observers in the crowd, I too, am a creature of the city. Maybe if I lived in the country, nature in its undistilled form would not be so shockingly beautiful in a compelling way, and instead beautiful without the allure of novelty. I don’t know the answer to that. I don’t know what happened to the hawk or the pigeon.
On my way home with my dog and my thoughts, I was reminded of an incident a few years ago, when my dog caught a squirrel and proceeded to shake it vigorously in her mouth, but interrupted by my shouts to stop, relented for a few seconds to look up, just long enough for the shocked but still alive squirrel to jump out of her mouth and run up the nearest tree. I don’t know what happened to that squirrel, but my dog was very confused by what I did.

© 2013 Marlon de Souza. All rights reserved.

Don’t ask me why – Ryan’s story

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.