I See You!
Thank God I wasn’t really high, I thought; social anxiety ebbing to a manageable terror. If I didn’t like the madness so much, I might’ve quite the drugs, but it was the only way to cope with the sleepwalking-keep-your-feelings-locked-up-follow-the-leader crap ‘normal’ society seemed to offer. I used them to feel good and not feel bad just like people used alcohol, cigarettes and coffee. Likewise, living a phony religious state felt too constricting compared to learning from direct experience regardless of the outcome.
The druggies on Granville turned and zoned in on me as if rallied to some call of higher truth. A former boss told me how people listened to me, but I thought he was joking. Yet now even I heard it. Unable to handle the attention and responsibility of being a spokesperson, I reluctantly turned them into the enemy out to sell me shitty drugs like they’d done so many times in the past. I ducked onto Robson Street and shuddered. Even at the best of times it reminded me of cheap baubles.
Up ahead, a small crowd gathered. Rushing for my chance at a sidewalk freebie, I nearly got into a fight. Luckily this coward liked free better than confrontation. A small white car squealed out of the alley and in a matter of seconds the crowd dispersed with the grace of a fluid dynamics equation. Alone, with nowhere to go and nothing to do, I pinned my presumptuousness on a street kid begging for change.
He sat cross-legged on the ground and begged so animatedly that even the hustle and bustle of Robson Street couldn’t keep up. He looked older than most of the other kids, tall with short unkempt hair and raggedy dark clothes that covered a near skeletal frame. An angelic aura contradicted a large nose, impish grin and fiery childlike eyes. “Hmmph, doesn’t even have a sign,” I quietly protested. He looked at me, then into me knowingly. Our eyes and minds met and danced momentarily before he blushed and took off like a UFO. Transfixed, something moved on the periphery. Suddenly, everything became golden. A forest of slender silver-barked trees appeared in stark contrast to the modern concrete jungle. A child, dressed in a spotless white robe, sandals and golden shoulder-length curly hair, ran playfully from tree to tree as if hiding. Unable to sense any danger our eyes met and he shrieked – not in fear, but in absolute joy before setting off again to wherever that was.
Shocked out of my experience, I found us still mind-locked, but his eyes were filled with so much hurt I nearly cried right there on the spot. His stern look of disapproval needed no translation I’d trespassed on hallowed ground. Feeling his mind trying to probe me, I donned my fish eyes and swam to the deepest, darkest waters of my emotional ocean.
“Why don’t you get a sign,” I stammered out trying to change the subject, fully aware of the psychological profiling I could do with even the simplest of signs. “Don’t need one,” he gestured in a matter-of-fact manner towards the abundant coinage before him. He was right! Whatever he was doing was working. Feeling stupid and not good at small talk, I smiled and pretended to leave. Lurking behind a telephone pole, I was curious to see what made him so different from anyone I’d met before. From my hiding place, I watched how the public dealt with him. Surprisingly, he seemed unconcerned when given money. The public however, reacted differently. Some looked satisfied, some couldn’t believe this was in their city; others smug. Feeling like a field student observing Richard Dawkins’ claim of altruism being genetically based on selfishness, the sounds of shouting shook me out of my reverie. Continuing to observe, a well-dressed man approached trying not to be seen looking. Too late.
In the span of several steps, his gait and emotions underwent a transformation from wonder to judgment to confusion to sorrow to sympathy to anxiety to desperation to obligation to search to donation to satisfaction to smugness. ‘Is that all you got? You look like you got more. Check out the clothes, jewelry, expensive watch, rings. Probably got a fancy car parked in West Van with a rich house….,’ the kid scowled. The man’s chest ballooned in animalistic defiance, but efforts to get the kid’s attention back made him out to be the attacker to everyone else. Now self-conscious he carried on, hurt and confused.
A woman approached and I laughed out loud blowing my cover. With fire in his eyes and energy spasming up through his spine, he quickly recomposed himself before asking me for spare change. “Nice save,” I muttered with a shrug. His thin lips curled forming a smirk. Peering into me as if knowing me, I blushed at his assumptive invasion. “I can’t give you money, but I can buy you some food. That’s what it’s for isn’t it?” I asked not wanting to appear presumptuous. “No, it’s for drugs,” he blurted out without even a drop of tact. With nervous laughter reverberating in my head, I asked if he’d like a burger and fries. To a suspicious look, I asked again. An I-know–what-you’re-up-to smile revealed the game he thought I was playing. As if I’d be interested in a skinny street beggar! Still, now I could prove him wrong.
“Yeah, I’ll have a burger and fries, if – you – want.” He drawled out the last three words leaving no room for doubt that it was all my idea and all at my expense. A sinister black shadow passed between us. My spider sense blazed its warnings to get the hell out of there, but that would’ve meant going back on my word – hardly an example to set for the poor and unfortunate.
“I’ll be back,” I nervously joked in my best Terminator voice and headed for Burger King; his cold eyes trying to figure me out.
© Michael J. Varma, The Gong Show, 2011 –
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