By: Brian Michael Barbeito
I find my high school Coles Notes for Lord of the Flies, and read it. They make fun of me but I don’t care, and would rather re-visit something old than explore the new. But between reading it I have to walk or drive, sit and take a break from the words and worlds of the literary critics. I have a sinus infection that has also plugged my ears for weeks, like when you are on an airplane, right? It just doesn’t want to go away. Maybe in some strange manner my sight is enhanced or I concentrate more upon that sense, as I can’t hear the world too well. What is seen? Things a bit prosaic, yes, but interesting somehow nevertheless…
What is the world, exactly?
This one walks from right to left and keeps looking back at a house, which is their own dwelling in fact. When they think they are out of eye-shot, they light up a joint and throw a hood up and keep going. But just a little later, an old lady travels from left to right, and I am naïve, wordy, but not worldly, for however far some signs reach, like Gemini, Virgo for instance, they retain for better or worse, a level of innocence. That’s what the esoteric knowledge says anyhow, and I agree with it. So the lady, ah what a kind old lady, I assume, for I like the elderly and their stories and existence. But then I can’t believe my eyes. A car is parked on the sidewalk blocking her way. She pauses. She pulls a metal object out of her pocket and looks up with a furtive glance at the house and around. Then she actually keys the vehicle, cutting a scratch into the car with her object. She has to be quick. It is broad daylight in the suburbs, and a busy high-foot traffic area. Then she walks on.
She leaves behind what was a nice stereotype, now shattered.
A man in the coffee shop has a bag full of prescription bottles. He has obviously stolen them from someone or somewhere and is trying to read the labels and, get this, actually sell them over the phone. But when anyone comes near he gets really quiet and puts them into the bag. Then, when he thinks he is out of ear shot and eye shot, he begins again. I know the opiate crisis has reached long and far, world-wide. You hear about it everywhere, right? I used to work in a big shelter and there was a multi-stabbing over drugs, a complete mess. That’s why I eventually left. But one of the guys that got stabbed was a person that had committed in his life an actual double murder. He got the guy back a bit, trust me, but could have hurt him moreso and chose not to. I hadn’t handled it well. I tried to manage it all, deep in a dangerous Saturday night of trouble, without the help of the police. If I could go back, I would just walk around and pull every single fire alarm and get police, ambulance, fire trucks, and every emergency service up there and clear the whole place out until it could get figured out. Ten people were hurt. It’s too much stress on one person. I asked a few weeks later to speak to the double murderer alone in a dark parking lot with nothing beyond but a forest. And he had been mad at me. But, man to man, we spoke. He said not to worry about the whole ordeal, and that was just that. I apologized for not handling it well. We left it at that.
The world goes on, in the midst of practically anything.
Walking through the mall, I look at a watch. I like them. On a big boat I tried on few Tag Heuer watches. One was five thousand seven hundred, and was four thousand something dollars. These stand for everything I am not, yet I like the watches. Of course I didn’t buy one, but maybe one day somehow. I like the green one, a diver’s watch. In any event, a lady keeps looking up giving herself away. She is up to something. She takes off her earrings, puts them in her pocket, and puts on both the earrings she was looking at, and then walks off. I’m no rat, so don’t say anything, but am surprised at her confidence and guess with her adept skill set that it wasn’t her rodeo as they say.
I move on. Not enough money and also not a thief.
I am buying a cold drink. A lady practically pushes me aside and buds in. The cashier doesn’t say shit about it and serves her. What a world we live in. I am dying to say to the ‘budder’ one, something, anything, like, ‘that’s okay, we weren’t all raised the same,’ but I leave it alone. I wonder if she would even understand that. I go past the bookstore because they had a display outside with all the classic books for really great prices. But it’s gone. I ask the worker and point to the area. The worker is rude and says, ‘I guess it’s not there now,’ and I feel like saying, ‘Oh, you are practiced at sarcasm and don’t like anything,’ but I don’t say much at all. This is the world, unfortunately, full of worldliness. I long to be a Christian proselytizing and happy in my salvation, but it’s not for me. So I am stuck between two worlds. And speaking of such, I can’t hear this world or that world, meaning in this world my ears are plugged for that sinus infection that has settled and won’t go away, and the other?- I see departed spirits in the limbo-astral-purgatory land,- souls that have left through accident or drug overdose or are simply in shock and lost, and they are good souls of every age, race, color, socio-economic class, so forth,- but I can’t hear them for the most part. I just tell them to go upwards and move on, to light, which is something some people joke about, but is very real. That is where the joke comes from, ‘Go to the light,’ but people don’t think it through. The joke came from somewhere and that something quite is valid, has veracity.
I continue on. Everybody else continues on. What else could be the case?
I am in Martinique. The vendors by the ship have Euro-American monetary conversion charts and are willing to talk and do business. I try to speak a bit of French though I can’t speak French and it does me well because they can see I am making an effort. But inside further, say, twenty minutes in where there is another marketplace, it is not the same. No American money accepted, which I was told in the day everyone in the world accepted. This is not true though. And nobody will talk. I take a photo of a beautiful orange on a fruit stand. But the lady comes around and begins yelling at me in French. I can’t understand what she is saying, but you don’t need to speak any human language at all to know she is angry. I let her finish and I leave. I would guess she was saying it’s not a side show, an entertainment, but she has me all wrong, for I am not some entitled tourist seeing myself as above, but really admiring the fruit stand from an honest and aesthetic paradigm, from if anywhere, below. People are people though, no matter where you go and what you know. Some souls light and easy going, others cynical and upset.
Sometimes you never know.
Until you do.
The other thing I saw was not extraordinary or interesting. It was just a person walking alone and struggling in the morning heat of day. I could see and sense this. I felt empathy. I felt bad. It reminded me of a true story where the woman who U.G. Krishnamurti travelled with fell down a hill and hurt her leg. He didn’t get up. The other people asked him what kind of person he was, to not assist, and just sit there while his travelling companion was injured. He said they had no idea, and pulled up his pant leg to show them that his empathy was not a sentiment or new age belief, but biological and physical, and he had at that moment the exact same cut and bruise she had gotten in the fall. I felt something like this for the walking person. I went on.
Even like that, you can’t save the world, heck; you can hardly save yourself most days.
Brian Michael Barbeito is a Canadian poet, writer, and photographer. Recent work appears at The Notre Dame Review.
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