Guy on the street corner wearing an army helmet. He nods at traffic. When I arrived 3 hours ago, he was there. He’s still there as I am leaving. He has long grey hair and a grey beard and he reminds me of my father, had he lived long enough to grey completely. He doesn’t rave, he isn’t angry. He simply nods at every car that passes him. It’s a 3 lane street at rush hour. He makes eye contact if he can. He doesn’t with me because I look away. Everyone looks away. And I’m struck with the thought that he’s broken, just not in a way that conforms to the way everyone else is.
Before I know it, I’m crying. I don’t know if it’s the familiarity that does it or the fact that “the world breaks everyone” and if you feel too deeply, it leaves deeper wounds. I carry them and you carry them. We swallow our dreams. We postpone and we ache. We are told we can be anything and so we open our hearts wide. Our eyes brimming with possibility. Our minds whirling with the how and the when. And we wait. Not idly. We save and create, we work and we learn. We drag our bodies through time bent toward that absolution. Clarity. The moment when it’ll all have meaning. Make sense.
Slowly, we are told we aren’t the right shape, that our minds are warped, that we love differently, that we are crazy or damned or both. But we wake and we ignore the ache in our spine, we sleep little or not at all, we survive on stimulants. We scatter our hopes at the bottom of lakes, at the feet of the unworthy.
We mold ourselves into what we think will be good enough, we lock ourselves in kilns. 1,900 degrees and we start to melt and we blame ourselves. The daily take. Love and the little losses of breaking our bones to find homes in the hearts of those who’d discard us. The subtle thief of years. The little lines at the corners of our eyes beckon. Days and weeks and months and years. Decades blending together in an array of blue and black. Bruised, limping toward oblivion, smiling warily at strangers. Speaking softly so as not to disturb. Demure and full of apologies. Lies weave their own language and meaning.
Sometimes we recognize the atoms in other beings knowing the same star forged us. We have been a millennia together, screaming silently. We kill our kindness or it is murdered by treachery. Lost in a sea of could have been. Never was. always will be.
No one said one word to him.
Not one meaningful glance.
No one to say it’s alright
Life in its terrible beauty can save you.
No one made him feel the laughter within each shadow, the way the light plays with the corners of buildings, the million year old particle/waves that illuminate everything
No one to pour out like water the fine art that lives in each shattered remnant of who we are.
The rain menaces him rather than bless.
All of the pain all in one moment, all of it a finely honed blade at my neck.
Kill me now for looking away. It is one of my greater sins. I just couldn’t bear it. We are all just one crack away from nodding at apathetic traffic in the dark.