Thursday, July 18, 2013

Human being back again


I go to bed at night looking for the answer. Wake up in the morning and go through the day with the same questions on my mind.  It is this feeling of limbo, of purgatory,of suspended animation needing one piece to be put into place so that one by one the rest will follow. It is exhausting.

Back from a morning with the Religion-Labor Coalition. My friend Father Duffel is’s not about an annual Labor Day weekend speaker in our congregations, a once a year ritual. It’s about a way of living faith. And what I’m thinking about are my own members who are workers. Their struggles. Their triumphs. Making a sense of solidarity with our own members in their working lives.

I step outside. Find Edward Green spread out on the steps. Asleep. Or passed out. Edward, you can’t be here.You’ve got to get up.
He seems to stir.
Edward, you have to get up. You know the rules You can’t be here.
I hear you, leave me the fuck alone.
Edward, you’ve got to go. I’ve got kids showing up here any minute.  (The JCC kids are due to arrive soon.)
You take care of the goddam kids, I’ll take care of my own damn self.
You got to go.
Tell me again.
You need to get up, you need to go.
Tell me again. 
That’s it Edward, you’re leaving me no choice.

So it’s 9-11. Edward rolls over, sprawled across the steps, goes back to sleep.

First to arrive is a fire engine with sirens screaming. The fire guys jump out. I explain the situation. They look over at Edward. OK, now we got wait for the EMT’s and the ambulance. I know that the heat wave has resources strained all over town.

Soon enough the EMT’s arrive. Walk over. Edward sits up. 
You OK?
I’m OK.
Can you get up?
Yeah. I’m OK.
So c’mon, get up.
Get the fuck outta here. I’m a 55 year old grown ass man and don’t need nobody tellin me what to do. Leave me the fuck alone.
So I guess we’ll have to help you, says the EMT, turns to his partners, OK, gloves.
What the fuck! You think I got the virus? 
It’s what we do man. It’s what we do. You ever been tested?
Get the fuck outta here.
As the EMT’s approach, another siren, NYPD.

They push past the EMT’s . 
So what’s your name?
Edward gives him his cockeyed smile. Human being. (Ah no Edward, not that again. )
So Human Being, can you get up?
I’m a fiftty-five year old grown ass man...
Can you get up?
So show me you can get up.
Edward begins to slowly pull himself up by the scaffolding railing.
You want to come with us?
No man, I ain’t doin that.
Then you got to move along.
Shit man, I’m a fifty-five year old...
You need to get moving. Show us you can move.
Where am I supposed to go?
The park. Up the street. Anywhere.Not here.
Shit man...he pulls himself all the way up. Takes a shaky step or two. Starts walking up Amsterdam. Shaking his head as he moves slowly north.
I thank everyone. Firefighters. EMT’s. Police. It’s a hot day.

I come inside. Shaken. More than I’d normally expect. RL comes in. What’s with you, son?
So I tell him. And he tells me the story of the Dalai Lama and the flies that ends with ...three strikes and your out...Point taken. So on to our next logistical, psycho emotional what to do about this problem conversation that seems to call for changing locks and ...

RL has work to do. Just as I begin to settle down to my own, the mumbling man comes in with his shuffle, raised palms, rolling eyes and impossible to understand mumbles. Again, lifting his pants leg to show me his edema.

Sir, you’ve got to understand...I’ve got nothing. Nothing.
Which is true. I feel my anger and frustration rising. I’m about to come off on this mumbling man. He’s really no different than any other day. It’s me who’s off. So I take a breath. And I help him with subway fare. He nods a thanks. Touches a finger to his forehead in salute. And is off.

Outside, the JCC kids are gathering on the steps. Just like nothing had ever happened. The steps just empty, waiting for them. Their high pitched laughter echoes off the scaffolding.

I’m off to Chelsea to meet Zeljko’s friend Zoran for a screening at the School of Visual Arts.

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