Tuesday, January 11, 2011


What do I get when I give out some coins to a bent-over old woman, haggard and brown with the ray's of a lifetime's harsh sun? What does she want? Some cash or some contact? Shuffling through the park, clad all in purple, her bonnet bright blue, her big stick for support: is this where we all go, when time takes us down? Our only connection a tug on a sleeve for some cash, just a bit, thank-you please.

(Putting yourself into somebody's mind is a game played by fools, by us, the humans, earth's ultimate knobs. We read books, watch movies, write poems, sing songs, punch teeth, stab ribs, swap tongues, lick ears, flick nipples, and all for the sake of some kind of transference. Good, bad, whatever, whenever. I can feel what you feel; you can sense my true love; I must show my great anger; you will know my wild wit. We can't know anybody (let alone ourselves!), but we crave a constant kind of touch, vicious or tender. Sometimes both, together. If only for variety, originality's poor cousin.)

I give her, this old hag, somebody's grandmother and lover, some coins. They drop in her hands like metallic m&ms. She looks at the colour of these shapes, the faces, the value. Checking their worth (and her worth? and mine?). She leaves. I watch. She's played her small role, to beg; I've completed my part, to give. She's done what's been built to do -- accept. She slowly stumbles away through the park, towards others like me. Ones with clothes that fit well, and hair freshly trimmed, and washed, and smelling of soap store-bought just days ago.

A little after noon. Six, seven hours more of sunshine to go. (No daylight-savings time over here! One can beg for one's dinner for hours upon hours! Woohoo!) More than enough time to gather more loot. I feel guilty for giving. One would think the opposite emotion would hum. Yet if you give, just so that your own errant guilt takes a form of sabbatical, who's kidding who? A remorse will grow, then fester. ("Oh, aren't you a kind one! Compassion's true friend, valiant and noble! Portraits deserve to be painted of your humane strong visage! To think! He gives twelve cents to the wretched, and asks for nothing in return! Write a song for this man, melodic and resonant! Let's build a statue in the square, marble and gleaming!")

Oversimplifications abound, of this sort, when charity runs its fingers through the long hair of excess. A simple act should -- should it not? no? never? -- result in simple rewards. Giver gives; taker takes. One plus one, and the answer is two. Instead, what I find when I age is that math plays no part in this human(e) equation. Additions result in subtractions of self. Ostensibly generous acts make oneself feel petty and vain. Multiplication divides. The other stays 'other', with 'myself' cut in two. (Three? Four? I've never been good at math.)

Sunny new days, in this place, as the year begins. No more resolutions or goals, not on this day. (If only, connect!) Old ladies in rags, hunched-over and half-dead. Caked in their own dirt, hands out and begging. Or simply asking. For what, I can't say.