Saturday, January 18, 2014

Simon Says

Before he was Bond he was the Saint.

As a personal joke I call him Simon Templar, after the great Leslie Charteris figure monikered "The Saint". The Saint was a swashbuckler trapped in the twentieth century who, luckily for us, still found no shortage of adventures or distressed damsels. His weapons were his keen mind and an able body always ready to deliver a blow to the solar plexus.

My Simon was nothing like that, however. He was slight of build, graying heavily in his mid fifties and wholly and utterly abandoned and tossed away by the world. To be unemployed in your 50's now is a fate unspeakable in its nature and unforgivable in its demise. God damn this world. Who the fuck are you to throw away anybody? Here's the face of reality as collector car prices skyrocket in society's last dying fantasies.

Another personal joke of mine is my role as "vicar". I've talked before how I'm recruited as a confidante before I'm even asked. Why wait for an answer, they reason, when they already know my answer? Harry is someone who "understands" - a very precious commodity among the we downtrodden. What I fear - what I suspect - is that possibly there's some unacknowledged good in me that allows this to happen - and if so, makes my betrayal of living friendships all the more wretched.

So what did Simon say? Simon said, "Soon, I won't have any way of surviving." That's it. His life story in one sentence. It's a delicate confession if landing on the wrong ears. A confession that can be used for persecution and damnation. But in that quiet tone of resignation he screamed from the mountaintop to a world too frantic to notice. We have stuffed our ears and stiffened our necks in indifference.

For those with six-figure disposable income times are booming

It's a line that could be interpreted in many ways by many ears. Was it a plea for help? Was it a bold, objective observation? Or was it an indulgence of self-pity? Where love comes no man knows but does his heart ever cease in its desire? The beating heart shall always desire life - but life is not always forthcoming.

In the twilight world of the shelter can be heard many concerns. It is a withering world, a world that disintegrates the bones and dissolves the mind; a place of restless, eternal grieving. Like the loss of a loved one, you can't believe it's happening but it is. Today I'll pretend all is well and tomorrow I'll let in the truth's hell. You start vain arguments with yourself on what is real and what is not. If you squint your eyes hard enough maybe you can still see your loved one alive.

Simon's proclamation struck terror in my heart, forcing me into my own short dance of denial. But I knew I'd do him no favors offering false hope and, in fact, by his confession was trusting me not to do so. I didn't ask specifics because they are immaterial when no solution is to be found. We were simply two helpless, hopeless men sitting on a bench alone in a crowd. 66 and sunny, the day was serenly beautiful - and so out of step with the world.

Maybe Simon was running out of saved money that had been keeping him afloat. Maybe his relatives - or some other means of human support - were going to cut him off. Guilt often drives people to get on their high horse and do the wrong thing. What I suspected, though, was Simon was running out of himself. He couldn't do things against his will anymore. He couldn't fake the smile. He couldn't push the broom across the warehouse floor and pretend it gave his life meaning.

Boy, do I know those sinking, crushed feelings, like David Copperfield dying in the child's factory.

But Copperfield had his life ahead of him and Simon has his life behind him. I tried to show him a story once on the cruel plight of fifty-somethings, the most unwanted of the unemployed age groups. I wanted him not to feel alone and if he were blaming himself to see that he was being too hard on himself. He refused to look at it. He still needed to pretend his loved one was alive.

The other reason I suspect I receive spontaneous confessions is because I'm the biggest loser of all. Who fears telling of shoplifting to a murderer? Time is no more my ally than Simon's. Realizing this, I pondered my possible responses.

"So what are you going to do?" "Something might come up." "Isn't there anything you can do??" "Is there someone who can help?" "There's always the lottery!" "Bank robbery can't be that hard." "God's a dick."

Don't worry. It's only this way
until you die.

I wouldn't want to hear any of that myself so I offered only silence. But my silence said a lot. He knew I was giving him credit, that he was not speaking lightly or out of turn, that to the greatest of his abilities he could see no way out. I wanted to scream for him as my mind raced to find an answer. It struck me as we sat outside in absolute stillness as the gorgeous day brought out revelers in the morning light that our drama was set in a different universe.

It's a stupid compulsion men have. I've complained about it myself and yet here I am on the spot just as guilty as any other diminishing jack ass. We always have to have an answer for everything. It's fucking required. "I am in world of shit, Private Pyle." But I wasn't concerned about my silence. I was just concerned at missing a good response if there was one to be had. This was headline news Simon was giving me.

I sighed in frustration, causing Simon to turn his head towards me. Time for my confession. "I don't know what to say, man."

With just the hint of a smile not fully reaching his lips, Simon replied, "I know."

He turned his head back and paused for a respectful moment, then got up as the feeling of wanting to explode overpowered us both. I wanted to yell out, "Hey, everyone, did you see what just happened here? Do you see what's happening to us? Don't you want to live?"

But what's the fucking point? People already know. Then I stopped to consider than if in Simon's "I know" he was warning me of my own fate. Very possibly. Very possibly so.

No man should be in Simon's position. He is not the transgressor here. I've hear lazy people who've never met Simon declare him lazy. I've hear corrupt people who've never met Simon declare him corrupt. By proxy he is slandered and villified and persecuted on a daily basis. But it is his persecutors who truly have no future and on the Day of the Lord will find themselves in the face of their self-made doom without recourse.

Perhaps by inflicting this fate on Simon it's their way of expressing their own unspoken hell, as being those with whom no life can be trusted.

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