December 15, 2010

Fastwalker

He sits on a ruined patch of cardboard on the sidewalk and extends a tired hand to busy, oblivious people running late for meetings and lunches and presentations and appointments. He gets only fragments of attention from children and dogs, at the same eye level, who all get swiftly pulled away by uncomfortable, accelerating paces.

He’s far beyond asking for pity or consideration. Long ago, he crossed the boundaries of self-esteem into a world of blurred anonymity where even the most basic of needs are surrendered to quench a thirst that never ends. He retreated ever deeper inside, yielding increasing bits of his soul to an inner battle he knew was lost in advance.

He doesn’t quite remember life before this altered state of being; it was a time where he, too, was one of the fastwalkers breezing past, his mind captured in numbers and deadlines and targets and results. There were others, supposed to be significant but only contributing to the global noise and his growing feeling of losing grip. And when the confusing storm got too intense, his only refuge was to numb his mind until the world faded away in artificial bliss, until it painfully came back again.

At some point, this world he resented started to slip uncontrollably. The burden of living must have reached an invisible tipping point, or he stumbled past some tripwire that blew away what remained of the flimsy fa├žade he was struggling to maintain. Or he just stopped caring and gave into the only thing which ever brought him solace, at the cost of his own humanity.

The tiny clunk of a spare coin whips him out of his desperate reverie. He can’t even tell which hurried trench coat dropped the meager display of pity; he only knows he missed the one instant where anyone acknowledged his abyssal existence. So he mumbles a few thanks to the wind and drops his head down again.

He won’t move. It’s too painful, too pointless. There are not enough coins yet, anyway, and the Shepherds of Righteousness haven’t arrived with their empty words and warm soup. He’ll just stay there. Remain. Cling to his piece of cardboard and an empty coffee cup. Cling to the false hope that maybe he’s gonna wake up from this fuzzy dream of a life into an existence that’s actually worth living.

Maybe.



Please don’t give money to homeless people in the streets, specifically at this time of year. Give them a warm pair of gloves, a hat, a decent meal or a sleeping bag. Even better, give them the gift of consideration and dignity by offering them a minute of real attention.

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