||[30 Jul 2004|04:56pm]
A few nights ago, I was walking through New Auburn and I encountered the footbridge that connects to Lewiston.
It was late. Past midnight. As I approached the footbridge, I noticed a figure attempting to make his way across it. The figure's slow, stilted movements resembled that of a zombie; he was obviously either dead drunk or on some type of opiate. As I neared the bridge, he drew in closer, and I could see his face.
It was not a pretty sight, to say the least. His eyes were heavily glazed; fixed, red, and staring ... dead weights in their sunken sockets. In classic drunkard fashion, he had an unlit cigarette dangling from his semi-open mouth. His thin face was unshaven and rough, his ashy hair disheveled and sticking out in points in all directions, like a child's after a rough day of playing outside. Aside from his physical state, he was nondescript, clad in a sullied gray sweatshirt and dark, colorless pants. Nondescript, indeed ... it wasn't immediately apparent as to whether he was a bum, a Lewiston resident or simply a bar fly. He lurched to a stop, his 100-proof breath a foul musk perfuming the air between us. He gruffly asked me: "You gotta light?"
I knew I had absently shoved the red Zig Zag lighter somewhere after the picnic in the graveyard, but, at that precise moment, I couldn't locate it. Awkward and calflike under the stark bridge lights overhead as the drunk slowly ambled toward me, I bent over and rummaged inside my boots, then in the pockets of my purse. No lighter.
"I'm sorry, man," I heard myself say. "I can't find it right now."
By then, he was leaning against the rusted antique rail of the bridge, staring into the impenetrable black that loomed just below. "I'm gonna jump," he mumbled. Slurred.
"I'm gonna jump."
I've had severe clinical depression for most of my relatively young life. I'm also an artist. Because of these traits, I have a certain level of empathy toward the downtrodden, and I usually wish to help others who are hurting, even though I cannot help myself. Though I am a self-proclaimed misanthrope, I cannot stand to see--or hear--others in pain. Even if I do not actually know the person who's hurting, I am usually the first to extend a hand and offer an unclouded ear.
... But when you accidentally encounter someone in such a dire state, stumbling across a decrepit footbridge in the early morning hours, piss-drunk and slurring that he's going to jump, you find that there are no more words. You find yourself unwittingly silent and staring, your usually inquisitive and empathetic mind blank and white. You want to say something to him, but the cold truth is there is simply nothing you can say to relate. Within seconds, you mentally rush through any possible slightly related experiences you could share with him, to help make him sense he's not completely, utterly alone ... but he is. And so are you, helpless and slack-jawed in the face of such a pink and sensitive personal catharsis.
"I don't like nothing," he blubbered. I froze. I couldn't speak and I couldn't move. Right then, under the filthy dim orange lights alive with buzzing insects and moths, canopied by blackened metal rife with sinewy webs and spiders encircling, I had the power to change a life.
I walked away, unable to offer any warmth or even the last sarcastic retort he'd possibly ever hear.
I don't like nothing, either.