Sunday, July 20, 2008

real thievery and violence

This old man walked on the bus with really extreme bow legs. So bowed he could barely walk and needed a cane. He sat down on a seat by the door. Later, at a stop, a group of young men from the back of the bus got up to get off the bus. Suddenly, there was a commotion around the old man, around the exit. All eyes were focused downward, towards his legs, towards the floor. My first thought was that he had fallen or fainted and the young men were trying to help him. Then I saw a guy reach into the old man's back pocket and take his wallet. I said, hey! and grabbed the guy by his shirt. Nobody else said or did anything. I felt a moment of doubt. I let go of his shirt. I was trapped in my window seat by an old lady in the aisle seat next to me - I could not get out to be a very effective crimestopper; although I don't know if I was thinking of getting out. He slipped out of my grasp. I stared at him as he walked off the bus nonchalantly. I'm not sure what I was thinking. I had been thinking the old man was in trouble and the men in front were helping him but the story changed midway and I hadn't caught up. My reflexes were slow. Suddenly, all the guys were off the bus and the old man was sitting with his bow legs, humiliated and bereft of his wallet. What happened, what happened, the old ladies around us said. Now, the bus was united as we tried to reconstruct what was happening. But everyone was also looking for reasons why they could not be held responsible. "Oh you shouldn't carry so much money on you" "Were those guys Filipino?" "I didn't see anything, I didn't see anything" I wanted to scream and weep with frustration. I saw everything and couldn't do anything. Didn't do enough.

Once, David, responding to a woman screaming that her handbag had been snatched, dropped everything without stopping to think and chased after the robber down the dark alleys of the Vancouver Downtown East Side. I wanted to to be like David. Heroic. Fearless. Instead I was only me.

As I got off the bus, I gave the old man $100 ringgit to get himself home safely. But it felt like I was merely buying off my own guilt.


Adriana Bucz said...

oh my, wish i could say something here to your honesty. instead, i feel my own guilt, sitting in my throat, all the times i could have moved, should have screamed, and did not. as humans - are we becoming such passive things? we see a genocide on the television and go back to our dinner. we must move. we must shake ourselves.

Anonymous said...

move your ass..!!
these are the words of the song moravia wrote and that we sing together here in vienna austria..(?!) tonight!
far in space from you dear su-feh, but near to your inquiry and as always you are near and dear to my heart..i will think of you and dear benoit as i hold the space for dear moravia and sing backup vocals with her Diving Home Band.
here at this overwhelming festival... standing in for benoit as he moves his ass into the right alignment for taking care of himself..
-i think of the beautiful simple graffiti stencil in purple cursive letters in my neighborhood in montreal..
it reads.
Self-care is not a cowardly act!
its so nice to see when riding the bike down the dirty alleyway..

but i guess finally timing is everything..sorry for the cliché
or maybe the movement is merely and courageously letting go...
the appropriate move making..?
going to malaysia with j-h is a courageous move in and of itself...(im jealous!)
writing out vulnerabilities and all expressions of
trial and error experiences
are nonetheless heroic! to me.
what you see and say counts for something.

i compare you to no one, not even you.
and love you, your friend, t

Rayann Gordon said...

Thankyou for posting this story. Here is one in return.

I was on a bus in the downtown east side once and a woman got on, sobbing , her leg bleeding. There were only 6 or 7 people on the whole bus, silent, as this woman sat in crisis.

She had a discussion with another woman who knew her - the young woman tried to ease the discomfort with a heavy hand... it was a 'how long are you going to keep doing this? why dont you get a job?' kind of conversation.

the sobbing woman moved away and sat closer to me. 'fuck fuck fuck' she screamed and cried and the energy of helplessness and discomfort with this suffering increased on the bus.

I was sitting there thinking a million things... more eye contact? less eye contact? say something? dont say anything? When a guy in a black hoodie and sunglasses got up from the back of the bus and walked up to her.

'Ma'am I don't presume to know what seems to be bothering you, and I don't know if there is a god, but if there is I dare say that he loves you. And more importantly I love you.'

She stared. Her crying stopped. She said thankyou.

He sat down. The entire bus started to breathe. I said something. (me too? I can't remember). Another woman offered loving words. The bus driver offered to help her get a warm jacket. She was stunned and calmer and breathing. The bus was warm. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen from humans.

I went to thank the black hoodie guy and told him that I had been wanting to say something of the same, but hadn't said it. "Ya well people should say shit like that more often." he said.

It took me some time to forgive my hesitation, but since being on that bus i feel a little more free to speak and to act. Those shaking experiences put me more in touch with how i want to engage with strangers, and each time something has come up with a stranger since then acting in the way i want to in that very moment has been a little bit more natural.