On some level, maybe I’ve grown accustomed to ignorance. Not that I’m completely ignorant, but more so that I’ve got an ability to ignore that which surrounds. That whole statement sounds so New York. And maybe in that light, I’ve become more New Yorker each day.
For instance, I week ago I once threw change to an old man struggling on two canes. The weathered seventy something year-old glisten Fuji Apple red in the morning light. Eaten by blistered peeled skin, his hands shook unceasingly like a Home Depot paint mixer. There was no computer genius here, no lost mathematician or concert pianist. He was a societal cast away.
Yet dropping a few coins into his coffer became his morning ritual. That seemingly downtrodden man followed me, found where I worked and met me there each morning for several days. He became a pseudo toll agent and stood defiantly in my path until someone produced a few coins.On several occasions, I tossed a few outdated tokens obtained at a western Indian casino. After deducing who the culprit was, this gentle soul became belligerent. One morning, he was hauled away by NYPD authorities and I never saw him again.
But this reminded me that sometimes acts of kindness become entitlements. I am not not referring to entitlement programs offered by the government for the poor. Rather, it’s when an act of compassion is interpreted as comeuppance. And that’s what addicts do.
So many times in my life, I looked for hourly, daily, weekly and monthly comeuppance. It was a prerequisite to the day. At the end of the day, I became just like a New York castaway. And tired of my shit, people no longer moved to help. They sat. They watched. They commented upon my fall from grace and laughed.
Their lack of faith in my humanity did not dissipate overnight. Rather, I chiseled away my own humanity piece by piece, moment after moment, excuse after excuse. Like ‘Red’ in the ShawShank Redemption, I’ve lost my humanity, not because I’m an addict of this or that, because you think I deserve it.
The list of those celebrating my demise were many, Katherine K., Karen N., Joanne F., Mari T., Matt M., Tim B., H.H.H., and many many more. Yet no matter what anyone thought of my life’s experiences or worth, like all people, there was so much more underneath to learn. But no one did. Instead, personal redemptive efforts were suffocated, smashed and crushed like used cigarette butts.
There were many sleeplessness nights, where the desolate prodding of loneliness and loss accumulated like anvils. If I had life-affirming qualities, there were extended periods they where unacknowledged. But in that depth of darkness, I learned to tolerate life’s burs. Eventually, I became tough, calloused and could bear the verbal abuse of a thousand men. I became like and unlike those who walked New York’s concrete pavements. Like them, I wandered in-between corrugated steel girders almost without notice. Unlike them, I was full of compassion, love and beauty whose flowers simply waited for a few drops natures nectar.
It’s a weird place – a divergence between heaven and hell. But at the end of the day, we manufacture our own hell quite well. Find a way to live in heaven.