Love and Understanding
I sat in mute desperation not wanting to create even more of a scene. With their eyes still on me, waves of humiliation rippled through me violating me on unknown levels. Surrendering to being caught going mad, I buried my head in my chest like an ostrich in sand.
Angry for feeling I had to justify myself to people I hardly knew, I peered into the deep pools of his eyes. Half-expecting the same indignant look I had for them, I got lost trying to remember what I was looking for. Questions surfaced about his age, his reasons for being homeless and why he was living the way he was when there were so many other less painful ways to do things. He appeared to have a good head on his shoulders, well-mannered with good social and communication skills. He treated me so nicely and respectfully that he was everything his situation dictated he shouldn’t be. I hadn’t given him any money – nor had any plans to – and I didn’t think he was gay. Not that it mattered anyway. The thought that he just liked me as a person crossed my mind, but how could he when I didn’t even like me?
Traversing feelings deeper and deeper, I noticed how they lacked the bitter taste so often accompanying embarrassment. When our eyes finally came to rest upon one another, my mouth dropped open in disbelief. His eyes were full of love!
At first I thought he was coming on to me and recoiled not wanting to be hit on or worse manipulated. Then I surrendered, feeling out its dimensionality on a level I hadn’t felt for … well, for a long time. It was love: pure, undiluted and unconditional extending beyond mere mortal lustful concerns. It spoke of understanding, compassion and familiarity yet was so foreign at the same time. My heart cracked open and wept in a way I’d never experienced before. I humbly lowered my head not knowing what I’d done to deserve such love. Another heavy, dark metal door slammed shut so forcefully my head reverberated. As the smoke cleared I came face to face with a painful reality: he recognized my pain because he knew what I was going through. And he knew what I was going through because he’d gone through it himself.
At first, it felt good to be found; it meant I wasn’t alone anymore. Another door slammed shut. Any attempts to resist proved futile. Each squirm and spasm only provoked and gave it an even more tangible reality. Despite wanting to see things differently and however seemingly improbable and impossible one truth remained: he knew! I struggled to convince myself I was different and better than him. I knew it, he didn’t. They were homeless, lost, drug addicts. What could they possibly know and understand that I didn’t? I’d been to school, to university, to….
In their efforts to console me I exploded! I didn’t need their pity. I just needed them to shut up and go away and leave me the fuck alone and not take me down with them and make me one of them. I laughed a derisive mocking laugh. I hadn’t lost anything – things were just ‘temporarily unavailable’. There was nothing wrong with me, nothing that ‘they’ could help me with and nothing that I couldn’t fix by myself – like I always did and always had to.
They upped the ante by letting me know they’d deal with my ex-roommates if I wanted them to. Although angry for what they’d done to me and as tempting as the offer was, I also knew what I’d put them through too. Besides, who knew what they were capable of or how much hurt would satisfy me? Instead I respectfully thanked them and declined their offer, citing it was my stuff to deal with not theirs. One of them pleaded as if his life depended on it. “Why would you help me when you can’t seem to do the same for yourself?” I asked, feeling genuinely sorry about him feeling rejected. ‘I could have a home. I had one before, but I don’t want one right now. When the time’s right, perhaps, but right now I’m having fun without one.’ He looked smug and over-confident. I turned to Derek expecting him to teach them the error of their ways, but he simply corroborated his friend’s statement. “Oh my God, you mean it, you really mean it!” I said disbelievingly, almost shouting.
Somewhere deep within a tribal drum began to pound out a slow rhythmic beat. It grew louder and louder until my energy began to shake. I felt something edging up my spine violating me, getting me, warping me and corrupting me. I held on, trying my best to keep it out. In desperation, I preached about the benefits of a home, food on the table, security, social standards, reputation, the whole nine yards, but they sat unmoved. I sat there absolutely stunned, babbling away to myself until I saw what I was doing: regurgitating opinions and not my reality. They, at least, were telling me truth – their truth.
Something unphysical stirred within the depths of my being. I felt angry like being the butt of some joke, but they weren’t laughing. Was that part of the joke too? Another squirm, another, another and I gasped. No, no, it couldn’t be; I wouldn’t let it; it wasn’t; it wouldn’t be. My heart fell into my stomach, out of my ass and into the depths of the Earth itself. I turned to denial, but that simply gave credence to that which was being denied. No matter how I looked at it, how I resisted and didn’t want to see, they were right! They had every God-given right to be homeless if they wanted and their choice, no one else’s!
Its simplistic truth blasted every belief and social construct I’d ever learned. Yes, these people did have the right to be homeless just like any other person, gypsy or nomad for that matter. It was only society that said they couldn’t, but why? What was so wrong with it? Fear erupted and I ran headlong into the terror of what they’d done to me, that they were right and I was wrong and for what I’d got myself into.
I didn’t want to end up like them just because they weren’t able to hold on. My best friend’s dad had said the same to me years ago in front of everyone. His blunt statement was so painfully true that all I could do was bow my head in shame. He could’ve been more understanding, especially for someone who’d sought God and truth himself, but I didn’t have the strength to tell him. No, his judgments would be meted out by the very God he’d apparently given up on.
Back to the present, I felt like I was being manipulated with my own beliefs in an attempt to make me homeless, but I wouldn’t let that happen. I just needed more … more … but more what? They didn’t understand that it was me who was homeless, ME, not them, not just some young punk kid looking for kicks, but ME! I needed a home, a job, a life…. I couldn’t be homeless. I was too nice, smart, kind, fragile, too … too everything. My situation was more serious than … than what? I couldn’t say it, but I could feel it. I hoped to God they couldn’t. Sure I was judging them, judging everything about them – without even knowing anything about them, but how couldn’t I? My stuff was more important than theirs for the one simple fact that it was mine and about me!
I gasped. I couldn’t believe I’d thought such self-centered things, but I was allowed – that’s what made me different. I hadn’t given up and I wouldn’t – EVER! Something sinister moved through my spine sending a shooting chill into my brain until the hairs on my head stood on end. They’d given up and accepted their homelessness and drug use as their lot in life. What was wrong with them? Glimpses of my true being appeared through the fragments of my judgmental self. I prayed the same wasn’t happening to me. Even if it was I’d fight tooth and claw until the bitter end with all my soul if I had to that much I was certain of. I gulped and secretly crossed my fingers. I knew myself too well.
I looked into Derek’s eyes again and froze. Instead of anger for being judged, beautiful soulful eyes swam with so much love and understanding that I would’ve cried had I not been so stubborn. But love and understanding from them? I’d never even thought they were capable of having feelings in spite of being people just like everyone else. If they weren’t what were they? More importantly who was I to judge?
Confused, silence hung in the air. A portal to some distant past opened and I recalled what it felt like to love and to be loved. Love with so much depth, understanding and unfathomable wisdom that it made me feel old, so incredibly old, yet so alive, so young, so now. Not wanting to come undone in front of them I held on. Visibly shaking, I collected myself, got up, stammered an excuse to leave and hurriedly made my exit. Self-realization banged at the door.
© Michael J. Varma, The Gong Show, 2011 –
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