Here’s something I am.
I am an amalgamation of different sentiments, ideas, theories and opinions. These tend to stay caged up inside my head. It’s an issue I have, sharing my free-flowing thoughts, hence why I tend to write them before I speak them.
I met a homeless person. This is the somewhat fleshed out but otherwise instinctual, guttural pouring out of opinion I made on my phone about an hour ago:
Why do we do it? Why do we ostracise those who fall on hard times (keyword: fall) from whatever privileged ledge we perch upon. You're not rich enough to be in my society. You don't have the minimum funds sufficient to be recognised as a legitimate presence in my life. I don't need to register every heap of flesh piled up like bin bags. Discarded, rightfully, due to its inherent uselessness. We pass people who we are actually watching, in real time, dying. Literally, we definitely know they are, properly dying. Unfortunately, it doesn't slot into our cushiony, velvety circumstance. Instead, we protect ourselves under a thin layer of self deceit. They’re not really homeless, they’re scammers, they’re scroungers, they should get a real job. People suspect every homeless person as being part of an extensive beggar syndicate, funding pimps, organised crime, unorganised crime and terrorism. They’ll spend it on alcohol. I prefer my homeless cold and alone as opposed to just alone, to die of pneumonia, not sorosis of the liver. More romanticism in the bluer face than the yellow. I despise an ethanol scented corpse. We cement ourselves inside our great tomb of ignorance, this thick smog of excuses just so we don't have to hand over our hard earned British pounds. Our all important currency, needed for sustaining this thing I am. We won’t give money, so we ignore them as a suitable replacement. You have no topics of conversation that would even interest me. We have nothing in common, I’m not homeless. I’m not arguing for taking on full responsibility, but do we get to absolve ourselves of any responsibility?
So that was what I felt. Now. Firstly, yes. Secondly, there's an insidious insinuation that comes with this writing, buried under layers of self denial.
With my brilliant artistic mind, I've noticed a flaw in humanity and it is my duty to share my genius findings with other, less gifted, sapiens. The ‘we’ really means ‘you’ because I didn’t walk past her, I stopped and I talked (this time.) I gave her my hard earned money. I made a difference to someone tonight. I am too modest for praise.
I call her ‘her’ because I don’t know her name. It never occurred to me to ask. I mainly acted as an ear for her thoughts. She said hello to every passing person and only one vaguely responded. She would talk and I would not say much in return. We parted after a few minutes and that was that. Unremarkable, uneventful and mundane. And that money, 37p tips. That’s who you’re dealing with.
She told me she needed £10 - £15 for a hostel. I had a subtle suspicion that I had a possible £30 in my wallet from some of my wages. I didn’t dwell on it and quickly shunned off the possibility without ever giving it much thought. But the thoughts were there. ‘I need that money, for my rent. She might not use it for her room. Why me? I’ve given her my time. I’m kind, isn’t that enough? £30 is a lot to me, that’s over a weeks food for me and my partner.’ Having said that I’d recently bought a small circular face scrubber. Why did I buy this? I must’ve forgotten I own hands. On my walk home I was too afraid to reach into my wallet to discover if that money was there or not because I didn’t want to confront what kind of human being I potentially had been. I’m still a bit hesitant to find out now. When I have finished my writing, I will look.
It should also be noted that, unlike a human equipped with techniques for conversation, I didn’t say those things. I thought them and wrote them down on my way home. In fact, I even got the distinct impression that I might be outstaying my welcome, a common theme I find reoccurring in my life. I stood, mainly silently, unsure what the best words to say would be. She would say “no matter what happens in my life I’ll never become an aggressive beggar, never” and I would say “mmm…” I would stare blankly into the middle distance, trying to locate the best repose that would inspire her out of her hardships. She eventually said, “anyway, I don’t want to take up too much of your night.” I took the hint.
And do you know what else I’ve done, I’ve exposed and divulged my selfishness. I’ve made her homelessness about me. I’m writing (reading) this now from the perspective of how does her situation impact my life? That’s the tone of this. That’s the sentiment. What does her actual pain and misery mean to my hypothetical morals and ethics? What the fuck am I? Who the fuck do I think I am? Well, considering I’m going to continue beyond this sentence, obviously privileged enough to go on.
No matter how tenderly I write about this set of dilemmas, puzzles, hunches and scenarios, it won’t help her. I’m inside now and she’s not. Even though that’s not my fault, it isn’t her solution either. I doubt she’ll ever ponder, “this may be the end for me but at least he pontificated some eloquent thoughts, his frail soul weeping tortured prose with such grace and dignity. My hero.” No, more like “that tight fucker only gave me 35p.” That’s not true or fair, they were a kind person who seemed grateful for the fleeting company. Plus it was 37p.
We all have our hypocrisies, don't we? I guess one thing we can do is recognise them, and do we can to alter them. But not without patting yourself on the back in a podcast for noticing some stuff we all already knew.
I had £45 in my wallet.
The Savage Balance Podcast is a weekly podcast offering a new story, essay, interview, thought or leftover scribble from the back of a napkin.