Private Conversation with Mom

By Nhi

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You weren’t here. But I conversed with you, privately and intimately, in my head. I carried on with the conversations that were without conclusions. Walking on the streets, I wrapped my hands around the coffee cup so that my inner hands would feel warmer. That meant the other side of my hands was tortured by the freezing temperature in mid-January. I put my earphones on so that it looked like I was on the phone if a passerby noticed that I was talking. Not that the person would care. We had so many people talking to themselves in New York that it would be odd to wonder why. I steered my eyes to meet a corner of the street, where an unkempt bald man had been sitting for days with the same posture and face expression and clothes. The winds were whipping my thick jacket. One, after another. I weighed 168 pounds but I was vulnerable against the force of nature. I felt like I might fall. Dirt scratched my skin, my eyes and my lips. I looked at him. He had a thin blanket that he used to cover his whole body. He was looking down, onto something that seemed to be nothing. My hair smelled horrible. His carelessly cut sign said, “No home, no jobs, no family”. I walked to him, taking a crumpled dollar out of my pocket. That single didn’t belong to me. I picked it up while I was walking about twenty minutes ago. I am doing kindness on behalf of another person who dropped their money.

He said, “Thanks so much. God bless you.” His eyes blazed with happiness.

“How are you?”

“I am alright. A bit cold today. But I didn’t have anywhere to go anyway.”

“Where do you sleep at night?”

“You know the park near here?”

I nodded.

“I slept there on the chair. There is a chair that is my favorite.”

“Could I ask you a question?”

“Yes. Sure.”

“Have you ever considered a homeless shelter?”

“Shelter is a horrible place.”

“What?”

“Being on the street where people pass by you and sometimes drop you one or two coins is safer than living there. It is like hell. When you put so many people with so many problems into one condense space, it just doesn’t work. They hit me. They took my Bible. I left. I haven’t showered in six months.”

“Do you have a family member who can help you out?”

“I don’t. No. I don’t.”

“Do people on the street help you out?”

“Some do. Some don’t. It is okay. Enough”

“Why did you get into this situation?”

“I lost my job. My wife left. She took everything. I receive nothing. I tried different jobs. They just don’t want me. Let’s say there is no chance of turning life around.”

Mom, humans are too soft.

They had given money to homeless people, and smiled to strangers, and cared for people who were less fortunate but lives went on with that low temperature of compassion. People died. Wars happened. Women got raped. Children worked since when they were five. Traumatic. Painful. Helpless. Why.

The good case happens when people insist that they still can do something. They keep trying, little by little, day by day, thought by thought because they believed in the word “contribution”. They have confidence that they can do small things to create big changes. But the worst, the most horrible happens when we give up on giving a damn about someone else. We stop bothering, saying Hi, smiling when our eyes are locked with a stranger’s, asking questions, holding door, offering hugs, being compassionate, believing that we can do stuff, putting ourselves in someone’s shoes. We block off sad thoughts; we stop reading news. What the hell, we couldn’t do anything anyway. We are oblivious. Robots. Chasing after dreams. Counting what we have on our resumes. Doing socially good things because we are programmed to do so. Making lists of what we have to accomplish before a day end. We are torn out, but still do it, because humans are we.

Mom, I think I am a robot.

[This is a part of a fiction series I am putting together for my class. Let me know what you think]

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