I have a friend whom I consider to be one of the more humane people I know. Known him since childhood and even though we've been thousands of miles apart for years, one phone call and we're back again to those days when we sat and simply discussed the world and our plans for it.Funny how that works, reliving previous times through some talisman such as the phone. Closest thing I have to a time machine.
Anyhow, I was speaking to him about actions of a loud self-urinating homeless man on the subway. And true to my middle class roots (and fresh off some New Yorker article about the virtues of tough love policies on the behavior of the poor) I was focused on my feelings and the inconvenience to me.
My friend interrupted. Come on, guy, and he lamented that anyone could be in such a state in the most powerful country in the world.
But I'm a loyal dog—comes with the class description—and I dug in my heels, mentioning a front page story in the NY Times that had a homeless man killing a woman who'd helped her.
A long pause. I could hear the static over the phone, silence traveling across oceans, hills, forests and confused by the ear piece's input on my end.
He broke the silence by clearing his throat. He then mentioned a homeless man he once knew. Kept out of the way of the pedestrians, this homeless man, and my friend had tried to help him once and the homeless man refused it.
If course, he could see this homeless man from his office. And there was this American businessman who would walk by frequently. One day he accused the homeless man of magic tricks. The homeless man at first just turned away, but that only encouraged the American who doubled down. Soon the homeless man was vehemently denying any knowledge of magic.
The next day the American walked by and started to accuse the homeless man and this time he followed it up by throwing rocks at the homeless man. The homeless man finally fought back, to which the American said see? Magic. And crushed the homeless man to death.
The fuck, I thought, but asked instead if they arrested the American.
"You're not listening, man. That's not the point."
I tried to think, the thoughts this story had chipped off were swirling in the cauldron of my head and now dripped something like acid on my heart, my guts. A sick feeling overcame me. "What is the point then?"
"There is no—"
"Is it true, the story?" I asked.
"Listen, you'll just have to think about it."
I did not like this, and pondering on so sick a story was the last thing I wanted to do, but I decided to let the point go. We talked some more about family and some other stories and we ended the conversation on good terms. My thoughts, however, were still a mess.
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