Friday, August 6, 2010

A Spectator

This afternoon I finished my last summer session final, stepped outside, put in my headphones and walked to the light rail. I ended up taking a phone call and couldn't hear very well with all the stop announcements, so I just hopped off at 16th Street downtown and figured I'd walk to 18th and catch the next one there.
It was gorgeous, the perfect day for that. My middle sister's infectious cheery and bright voice melted the recent all-nighter and load of information over the past few days off into the limitless blue sky, and when she said goodbye, hanging up, my phone gently switched to resuming the music I was listening to earlier.
When I walked up to the station at 18th, I glanced around, surprised that most people around me were dressed in suits and ties or formal clothing of some kind. Then I remembered. t
I was in the really expensive part of the district where the buildings weren't just tall, they were new, and where the government court houses had decided to park permanently their broad-shouldered masses covering entire blocks. I smiled politely at the twelve or so people standing around waiting for the F to take them away from downtown, away from work, and home to their beautiful houses.
I ride the D. No one in a suit rides the D line light rail.
As I stood listening to the lead singer croon in my ear lyrics he'd written that doubtlessly meant the world to him, I watched as the city passed by in front of me. Then the city approached me.
"Excuse me" he said quietly, and pushed past me, opening the lid of the trash can I was leaning lightly on absentmindedly. He was in his early thirties and heavily tattooed, although most of them were indistinguishable they were so faded. Filthy blond hair that grew unkempt and ragged mirrored the condition of his clothes, but none of them hid or detracted from the brightness of his piercing, hard blue eyes. Entirely focused and intent on retrieving something salvagable for a meal, he completely ignored the disgust and embarassed faces of the middle-class group standing around him, watching. Just watching.
I will never forget what I saw in them.
It was enraging, I was furious. The moment I became angry at them I realized I was as guilty as they. Quietly I put down my stone that in my mind I was ready to hurl at every one of them. The man who fought for every meal and didn't ask a group of people with a lot of money for a single thing continued to lift pizza boxes, foam containers, plastic bags and empty soda cans out of the way to see if anything might be palatable.
The music in my ears slowly faded away as my mind roared, and before I knew it I was getting off at 25th and Welton. What good were a few poptarts? He'd inherited what I happened to not have eaten for breakfast. If I had gotten hungry this morning, he would've gotten nothing.
I would have been like every one of them, just standing, watching. Would I have put my hand on his shoulder as I walked onto the light rail if I hadn't just given him something? I don't know.
I wasn't wearing a suit and don't ride the F line home, but are we really that different?
There will always be the poor...but God I don't want to be someone who just stands there and watches such blatant hunger.

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