Robert Bard

Awareness

In Mimesis on December 8, 2010 at 7:21 pm

They sit on his couch.

They sit on his parents’ couch.

Inside his parents’ house they talk sharing in each other’s heartbreaking sorrows. She is in pain, and they lay in each other’s arms while his parents sleep upstairs. He is embarrassed that his pain is so trivial, and he runs his fingers through her hair to soothe her, saying, “I wish I could do more to help.”

She holds him tighter. “There’s nothing you can do, but having you here does ease the pain a bit.”

In this moment he sees the line between them. He sees himself, his life of privilege, of ease, free from want and care, a roof over his head, a car at his disposal, college tuition paid in full, health insurance, good health, and all of that vastly different from her, marking her as different, and somehow more fully defining what he is. He rejects his life and feels shame that there is a great inequality between them, in the hands that life has dealt them, but he recognizes her as being equal before his eyes, if not his superior. If it were not for his parents he would be in the same place as her, and he knows it. He wishes that he could provide for her. She is homeless, and is moving from couch to couch, occasionally staying in a temporary housing facility for the mentally ill. He, on the other hand, is still living with his parents at twenty-four years old, with no job, and no way to move out. Her homelessness is not the product of laziness, or a lack of drive to work. In fact her doctor had given a note with six disabilities that claimed should prevent her from working for at least the next year. No longer able to live on her own she had gotten in touch with her mother’s side of the family after about a twenty year gap and they had offered to take her in, and then kicked her out on the street a short while after because she had pierced some underage girls’ ears at a family party. He had implored his parents to take her in, but they had turned a cold shoulder to her. It didn’t matter to them that he had known her for eighteen years. His parents had only been recently introduced, and despite trying to appeal to his mother’s Christian morality by pointing out that here was a very real instance of charity where she could exhibit her good will by taking in a homeless person, and not just a strange homeless person, but someone her son knew, his mother did not want the invasion of privacy, and let the situation drop, and so left her son’s friend a step away from the street. He would never be without a home. His parents would always give him everything, but he was entirely dependent on them, and had nothing to give her, and it grieved him deeply that he could not provide her with a stable home, where she could rest and focus on her health. A great tremor runs through his body like a gust of wind through a forest, and he whispers in her ear, “You know I love you, but I just can’t tell you enough. I just wish we had our own place, and that I wasn’t unemployed so I could support you. I feel so useless.”

She looks up at him and sees the anxiety wracking his face, and says, “You really need to loosen up. C’mon, stop worrying so much. If I can cope, you can cope.”

The hurricane of his mind created a turbulent obstreperousness so loud that he had trouble hearing what she had said. He tried to quiet the beating in his chest, but she nestled against him and placed her ear against his heart, “There. You’re still living. I’m still living. We’re here, and I’m not going anywhere. You’re stuck with me.”

The irony of the situation did not escape him. He was supposed to comfort her. He was supposed to be the rock, but he crumbled into so many pieces, a desert full of sand. He looked deep into her eyes and he could see them smiling back at him, happy in this moment after so many years of pain. What could this mean? He had nothing to give her except his love, and love cannot buy you groceries, cannot pay your cell phone bill, and most certainly cannot pay for your medication. There was nothing, he felt, that he could do about her housing, but he knew that if he could trade places with her and take all of her pain, and all of her hardships, and all of her suffering on, even if it killed him he would do it in a heartbeat if it would remove it from her. He caressed her cheek, speaking softly, “You know that if I had to choose I’d give all that I have to you.”

She nodded, and their eyes met, locked in place. He felt impotent, emasculated. He could not provide for the girl he loved. He had four dollars and twenty-seven cents in his pocket, the rest of the money he had in the world. He was of no more use than a suckling babe.

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