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The 21st Century

Hacktreks Travel

Hacktreks 2

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Lifestyles 1
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The International Writers Magazine
: Dreamscapes- Street life

The Man Outside
Arthur Blake
You better snap out of it, partner. You’re too young and smart to be living like this.

You ask me why I’m out here, and I have to say that I couldn’t take it anymore, I was burned out. I’m sure it was a gradual process, wearing me down, but then sometimes it seems to me the change occurred overnight. One day I was game for things, willing to push myself into something for the experience, if nothing else; and the next day, that man was gone, he was missing something. That something might have been the last of my youth. I was a changed man, fully entered into a new phase in my life. Time, it seems, had dictated to me as it did with everyone else; eventually it will have its say.

With me, it took a little longer than it does with some people; I had good health and even looked younger than my years, which people regularly pointed out. That, it seemed to me, meant I was doing something right. It was more reassuring than being told the opposite, or that I looked like shit.

I still meet people who, because of my appearance, can’t understand why I’m not doing something else with my life. I look intelligent - collegiate, some say. I don’t look like the typical street person or vagrant. I don’t look crazy. What in the hell am I doing out here wandering the streets with a pack over my shoulder, sleeping in alleys and parks? Where’s my car? Don’t I have a job? And is that booze I smell on you at this time of day? You better snap out of it, partner. You’re too young and smart to be living like this.
Yes, there’s always a good soul out there trying to give you a boost with a pep talk, and I am never rude to them. I listen to what they say and nod my head and smile because I really have no answer for them. Not one that would satisfy, for I don’t know if I have the right words for it.

The simplest way I can put it is that I’m where I am now because I have nowhere else to go at the moment, no place calls to me, no particular destination.

Physically, I could be somewhere else, but my mind would be in the same place, regardless of city or street, or the people. My mind is outside of things in that I never feel completely given to any place or activity; I seldom feel an attraction toward people and their doings strong enough to bring me closer. I’m aware of a distance even if they’re not. And I have to wonder at the “connections” people have to their environment, and others around them. What are those bonds? What compels them to keep plunging into the fray?
Even when I was younger and more committed to accepted practices, I wondered how long I could play the part. For I knew that is what it was, and I knew the time and effort it took in carrying it out.
Well, one day the show didn’t go on, it seems. Somewhere along the line I gave up playing any of the designated roles. I ran into myself. It all led there, for I was too depressed for it to lead anywhere else, other than death. No role will sustain you when you’re in that much pain and doubt. You turn quickly one day and there you are; you see yourself. And you are either so repulsed that it will eventually kill you, or you let out a little sigh of relief, thinking it’s not so bad, you can do something with this (although not along that same path you were on, the one that almost did kill you).
So I’m still here, taking it day to day. I no longer look further than that.

What about your future? I hear. You have to plan for something.
But planning’s out for the moment - at least the long-range kind. That kind of thing frustrates (the inevitable lowering of expectations) to the point of depression, and I don’t need to be going in that direction again.
I had no choice but to accept the fact that I was a failure at what many people call a “normal life”, a definite failure. Look at the results, I said to myself. Can you call yourself a success, you who have had suicide on your mind more often than you’d care to admit? You who have actually tried to go through with it. You who drink yourself into a stupor every night, which is the only time you sing or laugh. Yes, you’re a man sitting at the top all right, a man in full command of his days, a man with a plan.

I tried to laugh at this, but that rang hollow. I figured I would probably be considered a sick man by certain professionals who specialized in mental illness. Perhaps it was emotional, or a denial, as they say in the rehabs. Perhaps a touch of schizophrenia and drug burn-out. In my mind, I could see the doctor holding his clipboard and nodding his head, occasionally jotting down something. And me really focusing on his mustache, his haircut, his big ears or his well-manicured fingers. I would try to put myself in his shoes for a bit, try to gather from the details at hand some kind of picture of his existence, and what the advantages might be in doing things his way. And yet I would never trade lives, no matter how much of a “success” this doctor was considered to be. No, I have never met the person I would trade lives with. I’ve been with myself long enough now that I’d like to see how it all plays out, without thinking in terms of “success” or “failure”. I sit in whatever space I call mine for the moment and watch and listen, reflect and sing, talk to myself, let another day go by. True, I’m not as outgoing as I used to be. As I said, there came a day when things changed for me, and I didn’t feel the old powerful need to be understood in some way, by somebody. You might say a few concerns evaporated, became pointless to me; I had shed a skin of some sort. I now feel easier for it, as if it were necessary.

Not that I can say there’s any great improvement, but there’s no use pretending that what was still is. Time to get on, if you’re going to do that, in the way that feels right. No more explanations for those who have “defined” me already.

© Authur Blake Feb 2004

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