Everyone is normal except the lostView(s):
The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. Or so the poet observed. I’d say women and children are prone to do this too. My encounters in the week under review were with two men under such dire circumstances that I’d go with Thoreau for the nonce (he’s the poet I mentioned, dears).
That they were willing to open up to me – an imperfect stranger – was due to one being under some duress, the other while feeling somewhat dejected.
These are real people with real dandruff, so I have changed their biographical details to a certain extent. Not that I expect them to write a strong letter or two of protest to the editor, or anything drastic like that. But you can never tell, as George Bernard Shaw probably never said…
The first was the official driver of a not-so-distant neighbour who runs a tourism business. One evening I encountered this lost soul staggering home after work… the driver, not the entrepreneur – dead drunk, or under the influence of something a lot darker than the usual tonic that soaks pour down their throats to keep their spirits up.
Now the entrepreneur is a pal of mine, so I took an interest in the errant chauffeur naturally enough. His story was a sad one that had me clucking in sympathy and challenging his praxis, in turns. Son of parents with five other normal enough children, this particular offspring is the black sheep of the family – not affirmed in childhood, not educated in adolescence, not socialised into manhood, not employed in adulthood, not liked by friends, not loved by family. Etc.
Sob story? Sure… but also possibly true… “In vino veritas.”The truth unravelled by a young man in his cups was that of parental neglect and systemic indifference to one among millions in his lost generation. Une génération perdue. Who was he? How could he ever make something of himself in a society that favours the elite, the educated, the energetic, the execrable? Why live?
The second was an out-of-town older gentleman who’d trundled into the city by train for his regular check-up. A chronic alcoholic, he had been given less than two years to live by his doctors. He was blasé about the whole thing.
A man of some means in his heyday, he’d chucked up God, the Book, the Faith.
No slouch in the interpersonal department, he’d written his last will and testament, granting all his earthly property to a loyal wife and loving children. Now all he wanted to do was die. Preferably today. Because whether now or next year, it was all meaningless anyway. Life in all its post-Olympics glory had zero significance for him in that crowded mall where I indicated he could sit at my table where I was munching lunch alone. Nada y nada y pues nada.
The only thing he didn’t do was to quote Hemingway to me. But I just knew it in my chilled-to-the-marrow bones what was going on in that nodding, grey head, from which eyes that had already crossed over to the other, undiscovered, country (from whose bourn no traveller ever returns) looked out myopically. Why bother living today when tomorrow we die, and all flesh is as grass? Whose profit am I striving for in seeking after the wind? There is nothing new under the sun – only sorrow that fades like a distant echo from a far shore when the sojourner crosses the bar! So let there be no mourning!
Now, folks, I trust I have not irreparably dampened your spirits this bright and beautiful day. For whatever your faith or philosophy and no matter what walk of life you are from, these stories end well. For the most part because they are still being told even as I share my experiences with you.
The morbid chauffeur has been told that there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother; and in a matter of minutes of an evening’s conversation, he has discovered an accountability partner who lives a stone’s throw away.
The mortal liver-ailment gent is expecting a call and a visit someday soon from a man who enjoys a glass of wine or tankard of beer, but realises why it is a healthy injunction that imposes on humankind the condition that they shall not be found in drunkenness.
I’m no natural Good Samaritan, mind you – and neither are you, dears, if I know anything about human nature. Be thou an extrovert or an introvert, perceptive or judgmental, of a thinking or feeling ilk, an intuitive type or a sensing kind, there’s someone somewhere who’s your brother or sister fallen by the way.
May you have the good fortune to meet them in the week ahead! Remember, everyone’s normal – until they start talking…
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