I am fascinated by the many people I see in Boston on any given day.
This piece was written back in the Fall but I thought I'd post it here.
Sadly, this man really exists.
It’s a late October day in Boston as blowing leaves weave a chaotic pattern of dark crimson, burnt orange and flaming yellow floating carelessly, endlessly across the common.
For a moment this landscape reminds me of some long forgotten Monet watercolor.
Then I see him near Tremont and Park Street standing, ironically, on the spot that marks the beginning of the Freedom Trail.
He is threadbare, mangy and sporting a dirty blonde beard that hasn’t seen a pair of scissors in months, maybe years.
He is screaming at the top of his lungs, his hands clenched into tight fists swinging at the air around him, a prisoner for the entertainment of the masses.
The fall leaves form an autumnal vortex that curves around him, raises him, a seemingly mundane ascension.
Before today, I thought I’d truly experienced human rage but I was wrong.
I can clearly hear his undecipherable wails of anguish at a world that not only looks upon his display with a blatant passivity but with a collective apathy that seeps directly into ones own soul.
I stand safely on the other side of Tremont and I watch him as his already fragile spirit seems to fracture before my eyes.
In my mind, I see the many frigid winter nights he’s spent roaming the side streets and alleyways of the city in search of anything edible; a stale crust of bread, water or wine—our refuse, our needless waste.
I think about the fact that he is alone, scared and sick to death of this pestilent world he’s been sentenced to live in.
He’s wearing a tattered and badly soiled T-shirt, riddled with more ragged holes than a one-pound wedge of Swiss cheese.
His pants are 3 to 4 sizes too big and cover his blackened bare feet. His hair covers most of his face, save for his eyes. As I cross the street, I see that they’re this penetrating crystal blue. Upon closer inspection I realize he’s been crying.
I feel wrong to stand there and watch but a part of me is moving with him, wanting this to be over for him.
And though I can’t begin to feel all that he feels my heart aches for him.
I think about all the aid we send to various places around the globe, all the alms—the children we save, the countries we rebuild, the peoples we protect, the perpetual comatose we sustain.
In some small way, these people and places somehow belong to us.
We should be more responsible.But for all the good we seemingly do we can’t find the time to help this one blue man. He is invisible; a prisoner of his own demons, trapped by an unaccountable and sleeping bureaucracy that is often too ashamed to admit there is a problem.
As I walk back through the Common, the cries that seem to follow me diminishing with every step I take.
Maybe it’s just my own selfish device that allows me to walk away gracefully yet dignified, my hypocritical pride still in tact.
The further away I get the more normal (and pointless) the world becomes.
I watch lovers walk, old ladies feeding squirrels,
(even the effing squirrels are treated more humanely) and I wonder if one person can make a difference in another's life; the answer is an unequivocal yes.
Maybe someone else will take care of this man, I think to myself.
Distance allows us acceptance of almost any situation.
We exploit our learned indifferences and throw up walls that supposedly keep us safe and sane.
I know I'll walk through the Common again.
Maybe this time my eyes will remain open…just maybe.