It was likely a Wednesday morning, shortly after nine.
A man laid on a park bench; he was swollen from head to toe. Perspiration seeped through his shirt and speckled his dark face. Each foot was wrapped in bandages. His work boots lay below on the ground. He was missing his right hand. His wrist was also wrapped.
The bandages seemed fresh but stains of blood were on his feet looking like dried tea bags set to rest upon a saucer. The man with his round and tender face was asleep.
People came down the stairs, just as I had, but few took notice though he filled one of the few benches entirely.
I stood close by and stared. The next train would arrive in two minutes. A surreal air seemed to surround me. A man in rather peculiar straits laid out in public, asleep and yet was invisible to the majority of eyes passing by.
The numerous faces of smartphones however were stared at far more than this swollen, bloody and bandaged man missing a hand. I started to count, for every five people about one looked and only for as long as it took to pass him.
If not for care, at least for the sake of curiosity, would not most of us at least stop and notice he was missing a hand for goodness sake?
I began to obsess about my own involvement in what I was witnessing. I considered leaving him my water, or getting a cop, or notifying the station-master, but I didn’t. I rationalized he would be seen by a transportation official. Maybe the peace of his sleep would leave him better off than any involvement I could offer.
It worried me the way few seemed to see him; the way I didn’t inquire as to his situation. As I stepped on to the arriving train, I wondered if in some way I was beginning to fade in conscience. In the two minutes I had to decide to act or not I had made a grave error in my choice.
I am still not sure.
Although inside, something warned that this best not be a habit I groomed.
When I got back to the station he was gone. There was no trace of him. It was as if he had never existed.
I wished I had left him a note on his chest: “You are cared about”.
There is a difference between wishing and wanting versus actually doing something about a situation. You can live an entire life between your ears in a variety of styles. Dreaming into a phone and denying a live presence before you.
Denying a change you need to make because you fear the strife involved to make. Pretending everything is fine when you are withering away in some aspect of yourself. Even acting like the reality of age and economics will never catch up with you.
The strength of denial is endless and serves as one of our most defining attributes.
There are thousands of cells converting every thought into some sort of physical manifestation every second. The value in the physical is its role as conductor of spirit. It’s the main converter of feelings into modes of tangible expression. It is noteworthy how the body offers pleasure and pain so readily and thus the choice to decide which avenue we wish to go.
I think of the power of a smile, true touch, sublime pleasure, the energy it sets alight in all of us, the emotional catapult it offers and the hundreds of ways we deny, ignore and sweep it under the rug.
Without it we are only two dimensional, love itself cannot be sustained in the greater depths without the sensual intimacy the flesh can provide. Just as any interactions based purely in carnal feasting never will drudge deeper depths nor set the spirit alight.
While the seconds were ticking on the subway platform I started to imagine leaving my body. I felt empathy for the stranger on the bench. As the compassion swelled, so did the feeling in my chest and I sent it all to him through every molecule between us.
I began to wonder if what technology will show us is that which we already have. That at some point the line between an app and subliminal communication will blur. We won’t doubt that what we dream can be pulled into reality by mere mental focus and inner belief.
We won’t find it a coincidence when someone calls just when we were thinking about them. Instead, we will realize that at all times we are shaping our own realities.
That what we want, what we love, what we dream, are all intermixing with the energy of everyone else. We are just weaving a giant net that is ever expanding, ever relating and binding us all to the other. Knot after knot after knot.
Days later upon entering another station I noticed out of the corner of my eye a man asking for change. I didn’t engage until I noted his right hand was missing. I looked down to his boots, which I also recognized, as well as the swelling of his legs.
There, just inches away, was the man I had stared at and pondered days ago at my own subway stop. I grabbed change from my bag and walked up to him and began a conversation. He was coherent and an eloquent speaker. The film over his eyes seemed to lift the longer we spoke—the more I inquired gingerly, the livelier he became.
He told me that his friend out west had lost his head. He had lost his hand in a car accident and had diabetes. He also had a skin condition, thus the swelling and physical strife.
I told him I had seen him the other day and wondered about him. He smiled and said he was just tired, that being on the move, on his feet all the time was exhausting. The train pulled up, we traded names, “See you then Rebekah”, “Take care Spider J” and I entered the car.
The smell of him lingered on my hand intensely, so much so I think the person next to me wondered about my bathing habits. I however took comfort in the smell, something earthly and very real about it, something human.
I felt a magical instance had just befallen me; that somehow Spider J and I would cross paths again, that my feelings for his well-being had not been for not, that in our exchange that day we had both given each other an added warmth.
As I took the stairs out of the subway two at a time and turned the corner, I saw on the sidewalk a feather. Not full of color, but the city sort, muted tones of gradated black to grey. So I stopped and placed it in the brim of my hat.
Carrying a feather, for you and for Spider J, because love is everywhere—we just have to be open to it.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Assistant Editor: Rheba Estante/Editor: Bryonie Wise