An old friend of mine sent me this book to read, called "Law and Gospel". It's about faith and religion. Two things I have never put much stake in. The cover caught my eye though, "For sinners and saints." This implied awareness, that not everyone is built for "traditional" faith or religion, and I liked that.
I've never been much for thinking about the powers above, but I hope something's there. I've just got so much guilt, that putting an entire cosmic ton of it on my mind may in fact kill me. Ironically enough I'm wearing an Andy Warhol shirt that says, "Heaven and hell are just one breath away."
However; This friend has always been a positive influence in my life. She's one of those people that has an indespensibly pure soul. Those people make life worth living.
With her pure intentions in mind, I opened up the sucker on the subway this morning, and started thinking a lot about humanity and the future. I started thinking about 10 years from now, and how life's going to be shockingly different from this very moment. I have a tendency to get lost in my own thoughts. I started to drift into a tranquil sea of blue skies and humming birds, happy people holding hands. I started to think about faith and love, and the positive things in life.
My cloud of calmness burst when an irate homeless man barged onto the train nearly knocking me and several others in his wake.
He was obviously drunk and obviously crazy. This was a shock to the systems of nearly 50 people crammed into a subway car at 7:30 in the morning. This thing was so full that you didn't need to reach for the handrails. You could just stay upright because of the density of the sweating bodies around you.
There was no room for this man on this train. Not because he was homeless, but because the car was overcrowded and completely full.
Everyone was sweating, disgusting, and already irritated.
He knocked into me first, because I was jammed up against the door, and people parted for him like the red sea. The smell of him --rotting alone could have emptied the whole car, if it hadn't been for the threat of being late to work. He shoved hard against another lady who was carrying a full, open container of orange juice that spilled all over her and the few people huddled up against her. There was a distinct brand of chaos brewing, like a storm you hear rumbling in the next town over. I could see the woman's hands shaking and balling up into two fists, veins popping out.
She went postal:
"What the hell is your problem man? You don't touch me!"
Everyone waited on baited breath as the homeless man raised his bloody fist to her, obviously fresh off of some other subway skirmish. He looked like the kind of guy that would snap a dog's neck just for fun. Eyes cold and completely drained of all life, love and faith.
No tranquility here, just an empty shell, a zombie like presence wreaking of day old Whiskey and a life passing by too quickly to catch. It seemed like he thirsted for revenge on the world for wronging him, but he was taking it out on the wrong people.
His body convulsed as he spat a nearly incoherant response to the woman, who had no intention of backing down, "Bitchhh Bitchhhh, I'ma knock you out...I'ma kill you, everyone on this fucker!"
The whole train erupted. A speeding car full of adults on their way to work, may die at any moment, at the hand of a lunatic speeding at 55 miles an hour under Brooklyn New York.
5 or 6 men threw themselves in front of the woman, who was in full on screaming banschee mode, all flailing and yelling obscenities just like the homeless man.
When your life is threatened, some pretty insane shit can happen.
The thoughts of faith and humanity, God and the Devil crept back into my mind. That book! That book, said something about this, "The sheer murkiness of life is often too hard to navigate, no amount of self-propulsion can save us against what we can't control."
I can't control this homeless guy, or this situation. I can't escape because I'm on a train, speeding underground, with the next stop a few minutes away, what if this is my last day on earth? What was my last meal even? I don't get to say goodbye?
I was panic stricken, as many others were. I was covering large, heavy breaths with the cover of the book, hoping people couldn't see my red face and dodging eyes, jetting all over, looking at the faces of my subway brethren, all potential victims of this hostile showdown.
The row between the man and the woman got increasingly precarious, with the homeless guy swinging his fist, with a key tucked between the knuckles of his index and middle finger.
Everyone on the train squeezed together, creating a boxing ring around them. The woman next to me, clutching her beat up handbag whispered to me her voice shaking, "This is why I have to leave the city. People are insane."
This is the kind of shit you see on Law and Order SVU before a body is found.
I closed my eyes and thought about my family and everything else on this green earth that I had taken for granted. I've been an asshole.
I was just about to give up all hope, when a man stepped in front of the woman and said, "Come on, hurt me. Don't hurt these people."
He seemed like a ramshackle hero that you'd see on the news one night for local acts of valor.
Humanity has a funny way of showing itself. Like some days you get blown past on the sidewalk, or you get yelled at by a cab driver, splashed by a passing car. Shit tends to suck, a lot, Other days, a complete stranger might put his life on the line for you, defending you against a homeless lunatic with a knife or gun or whatever.
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Before I knew it the train arrived at Barclays Center and the whole car let out a collective sigh of relief. Some people hugged, others laughed and I just kept on walking. The man was escorted off the train and disappeared into the depths of Atlantic Terminal.
I arrived at work on time, got my morning coffee, and opened the book to a random spot, breathing easier and thinking about calling my mom and that friend who gave me the damn book in the first place:
"My life is a witness to vulgar grace --a grace that amazes as it offends."
Maybe this was all an act of vulgar grace, but the relief comes knowing that I get to live another day, and not everything in life is guaranteed.
Life has a funny way of dropping you on your head, only to pick you up and say, "there there little buddy, keep moving."