“What’s a shit-hole? WHAT?! What’s a shit-hole? Disgusting WHAT?! What kind of retard? WHAT?! What’s a shit-hole? Trashy WHAT?! What kind of retard? WHAT?!”
The woman at the back of the bus yells continuously for five stops … seven. Nine. It’s like an endless loop cassette recording of a child quick-fire yanking the cord on an aggressive talking doll.
The guy sitting across from me rolls his eyes. People are annoyed.
Everyone is ignoring her, and even with headphones on full volume, that’s hard to do. But the homeless (and mentally ill) problem in San Francisco is so rampant, this type of behavior doesn’t faze most people anymore. Acknowledging all the problems you see would be depressing, so ignorance is the less personally damaging of two injustices that most people choose.
This town breaks my heart on a daily basis. And I’ve been accused of allowing it to, but that’s inaccurate. I see everything equally. The majority of it happens not to be the stuff of motion picture happy endings, because that isn’t real life, and I won’t pretend it is. That’s why we have movies.
But there’s something to be said for finding the beauty in the sadness, the self in others. It keeps you honest. It grows compassion.
People say, “What can you do? The problem is too massive.” Global warming is massive, but we still recycle. We buy organic, even though it costs extra. We stop eating meat. We buy electric cars. We bring cloth bags with us to the store.
What can you do? Spend Sunday morning researching volunteering opportunities. Give a dollar when you have it to the man who sits on a milk crate outside the grocery store. And if you don’t, at least acknowledge him. Take the headphones off. Say hello.
When a baby cries, it’s trying to tell you it needs something, but doesn’t have the vocabulary to tell you what it is. We understand what it wants–and if we don’t, we try things until we figure it out. We change shitty diapers, burp it until it throws up on us, give it food. And we do this, over and over, not expecting anything in return, not even a thank you. And one day, that baby will be able to care for itself and for others who can’t care for themselves, and the cycle continues.
I don’t know when in a person’s life needs move from socially acceptable to appalling. Needs don’t vanish once your wisdom teeth grow in or you get your first “real job.” Not when your period begins (or ends), or even long after you bury a parent.
Needs shift, like life does. And sometimes you have trouble meeting your own needs, but you don’t know how to ask for help.
So you cry out.
On a bus full of strangers.
Who drown you out.