I’m at University, walking across campus towards the bus stop to head home for the evening. I’ve just come out of the library after watching a film adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream as homework for one of my courses, and my head is filled with the various confused wonders and oddities that often accompany a viewing of Shakespeare in one form or another.
While thoughts of fairies and forests continue to swirl in my immediate mental dashboard, I notice that it has started to rain. I pause and take out my small umbrella from my bag, shelter myself from the falling water droplets and proceed on my journey.
Reaching the bus stop I take shelter and pause. My headphones continue to blast BRING ME THE HORIZON’s ‘Doomed’ while I take a moment to look at the rain and my immediate surroundings. Gloomy as it all looks externally, there’s a strange beauty wrapped around the internalizing of this mental picture before me. That’s the thing I love about dark music; it has the unique ability to make dreary, depressing, or otherwise hopeless circumstances (at least, in perception) a piece of art; and at that something to be savored, like a fine wine. In this way, it has the astounding quality of making these sufferings bearable:
“…So leave the light on, I’m coming home.
It’s getting darker but I carry on.
The sun don’t shine, but, it never did.
And when it rains, it fucking pours but I think I like it.
And you know that I’m in love with the mess. I think I like it…
So come rain on my parade…”
Two females now take shelter in the bus stop as well and are chatting merrily. To my left, a young male – probably another University student – waits patiently for the bus too.
I feel myself tense up. Something’s told me that I need to be alert to my immediate surroundings.
From my left field of vision saunters in a hooded individual. He is not walking straight, more like stumbling, and I just make out the 440ml can of Double Brown clutched loosely in his hand. Following him is the distinct stench of booze.
I immediately turn inward and wonder why my nervous system has alerted me that this is a dangerous situation. He has done nothing (yet), but for some reason my internal structures have identified him as a threat to my immediate safety. Why?
A part of me feels bad for judging someone so quickly. I know the over indulgence in the propensity to be openly accepting of every stranger poses an understandable risk to my safety, but of late I’ve suspected that I’m wired up in the complete opposite direction; in that I think everyone that is a stranger is out to get me. Which is not a good way to approach the world.
I look back at the big can of DB that he clutches onto so tightly now. A part of me softens; it’s never a good sign when someone resorts to drinking this heavily alone. Some part of me instinctively knows that he’s in deep existential pain; maybe his life is crumbling around him, maybe he’s known some terrible horror in his past that constantly haunts him, maybe he’s never really had anyone to talk to and connect with, and he self medicates with drink to numb himself from the realities of his existence.
“…’Cause I want to feel it.
Come shove me over the edge.
‘Cause my head is in overdrive.
I’m sorry but it’s too late,
And it’s not worth saving.
So come rain on my parade…”
I tense up again. He’s put the can down and raised his right hand above the two females in the bus stop. “Hey ladieeess” he drunkenly calls.
They both freeze. 2 seconds later they set off at a brisk pace towards the next bus stop further up the road.
The man sits down on the bench and starts some small talk with me and the other University student to my left. He’s very obviously drunk, slurring words and overly revealing of his personal life.
I get a deep sense that he has a fundamental need to connect, but the current state of his being – the obvious emotional pain he must be enduring and the lack of companionship or a sense of belonging, coupled with excessive drinking – has made him into a creature that attracts rampant misunderstanding from others, the kind that instinctively makes others want to move away from. I admit that I was still tense in his presence, even while I was thinking myself through these thoughts in the moment.
It reminds me of something I once watched on YouTube. I don’t know who it was, but they were trying to give an argument for the reasons as to how Hell can exist and manifest itself in our lives here on Earth. He mentions the homeless, and the people whom if you were to see you instinctively would move right away from – and avoid at all costs to make eye contact with. I think – and I may be remembering this wrong – he posits that these individuals in a sense embody a type of Hell; an existence so far removed from the path that most have deemed as being the correct/true path, that the mere presence of it in one’s immediate surroundings is enough to make the seemingly ‘normal’ individuals tense up and be repelled by.
It was tonight where I really felt the weight of these words. I don’t mention this to excuse myself from these thoughts or to justify the above argument, merely as perspective to how I am attempting to reconcile this experience with my being. I am bothered by my instinctual reaction to this drunk man’s presence, as it was essentially a defensive fight-or-flight response, but without having sufficient reason for it (at least from my perspective).
“Are you guys trying to catch the bus” he asks, snapping me out of my internal dialogue.
“Yes” we both reply.
We all look down the road and see an approaching bus, we’re both too tense to move. The hooded man gets up and hails the bus down.
“There you go guys” he smiles, blinking through the rain under his hood.
“Thanks” we both begin to say, but he cuts us off with a sentence which has imprinted itself on my soul:
“It’s nice to have a home to go to.”
Nothing can explain the mixed feelings of anguish that I felt in this moment after getting on the bus.
So lucky am I that I have a family, friends, a house, and a bed to sleep in. The fact that a few minutes before I was trying to wrestle with trying to understand Shakespeare like it was the most important thing to do in the world, and a week that before lamenting about how I don’t know which (of the many) careers I truly want to pursue because I want to select something that gives me (selfish) the most opportunities I can have in the future, all seems like petty nonsense compared to the reality of which this man lives. Evidently not having a place to go to, and being in terrible emotional torment.
I think this serves as a stark reminder to be appreciative of the things that one has. For one person’s toy that he continually takes for granted, could be something that another cherishes the possession of, and could make all the difference in making the sufferings that accompany his life a lot more bearable.
It also is a reminder to myself to be less judging of strangers. As mentioned above, these responses I questioned in myself at the time, as they were instinctual. This suggests a deep ingraining in my internal personality and structure, which means it will take a lot of soul-searching and excavating to discover the root of. Only after this point can I have any hope of rising above these issues.
Lastly, to me it gives rise to a call to adventure to help others more than I am. I don’t know what concrete form this call to adventure is seeking to manifest itself into, but I’m sure that it will reveal itself in stages over the coming weeks. I’ll just need to be open to what comes and see where it takes me.
“…I think we’re doomed.
I think we’re doomed.
And now there’s no way back.”
All my greetings to those of you who are kind enough to read/watch my ramblings.