Today at the bus stop I met the fattest man I've ever met. Or maybe the second. Tor might be the fattest man I've ever met, but Tor moves lightly and dead silently, like he's weightless. This guy seemed to weigh every ounce he looked.
I saw the guy coming for quite a while before he reached me; he was jaywalking across the street, although a crosswalk was a few yards to his right, and was clearly exhausted, shambling across the road, swinging his arms, desperate to reach the other side. When he did he collapsed against a low wall and hung his head, trying to catch his breath, pausing for a couple of minutes.
"My god that guy is fat."
After a while I noticed he was moving again, coming my way. I stood at the bus stop and waited for him to pass, so I could get a look at him without seeming rude. Instead of walking by, though, he came up behind me and asked "Y'got any change?"
"Pardon me?" I said, not sure I'd really heard him say this. He said it again.
"Got any change? Pennies?"
I didn't answer him; I watched him maneuver painfully around to the front of the bench and crumple into himself. He plucked at his polo shirt and talked about how hot it was... his speech was clipped and muttering, probably much like mine is when I'm drawn into a conversation unexpectedly. It wasn't all that hot out, perhaps 75 degrees at most, but I could see that for him it was always a scorcher.
He asked me for change again. "I'm hungry... 'ma get something at Taco Bell."
I glanced down at his sneakers-- New Balance --which were new and white and as far as I knew more expensive than the Chucks I wear. Putting aside the absurdity of feeding somebody who was clearly not homeless and was in no need of feeding, I grabbed all the change out of my backpack and gave it to him.
He thanked me, and then asked me if I was growing out my hair. I told him that I had recently cut it, actually. He went on to state that he couldn't grow his hair long, that it grew pretty slowly... in the midst of this he spat, some of it dribbling down his chin. I don't think he actually cleared his belly with it.
I got the impression of somebody thoroughly unused to his weight, as though he'd only gained it that morning, somebody oblivious to his physical condition, as he begged for lunch money and puzzled over the temperature. The slightest movement exhausted him... how had he gotten out there in the first place? I imagined him having a heart attack right there; I decided if he did my first impulse would be to pick up my stuff and start running.
As we were talking, he turned and called out to these girls and asked them for change, too, beseeching them to give him pennies. One chick was in a down jacket; the guy said he'd sweat to death if he wore something like that on a hot day like today. She gave him a handful of change as well. He went back to asking me about my hair (it was piled up and out in front, tipped in green), wondering if I'd ever had short hair. Not since I was a kid, I told him.
Another guy came up to the bus stop. Once my acquaintance had asked him for change, he continued to go on in broken sentences, talking about how there'd been another plane crash in Mexico, a train wreck someplace else. Just as long as he didn't mention the World Trade Center. I was sick of hearing about it... I was sick of everybody's speculations and about what they felt the response of the United States ought to be. But also I didn't like not being able to speak my mind... saying what I really thought would not endear me to the average person.
The president talked about 'a quiet, unyielding anger,' and everyone talks about how the nation is united in shock and sadness and rage, but I felt none of those things. When I first learned exactly what had happened, I felt faint disbelief, simply because of the enormity of it, and then unease, simply because I now lived in a rather more paranoid nation.
I felt bad for the common people who got in the way-- the clerks and janitors and secretaries, and especially the firemen, and even the cops, mostly --but as for the brokers and lawyers and military officers and bureaucrats, I didn't have much sympathy. These people run the world, they own it... they create it every day. The world they created turned on them. They brought this upon themselves. And the common people got in the way of their rivalries. That's how it's been throughout history.
As for this violation I'm supposed to feel, this national urge for vengeance, I don't know. It seems as though it has nothing to do with me at all. I've been on the outside most of my life. Why should I care now? The public has had its emotions played with by our rulers, manipulated into a frenzy over far lesser matters than this, crying wolf again and again. We've been trained to have the attention span of hyperactive children. Now that something truly horrible has happened, I find I don't have it in me to care, and I find myself resenting the expectation that I should. I guess I don't think of myself as a citizen of the United States, and one guy with bombs at his disposal is the same as another to me.
If I'd lost somebody that I cared about, I'm sure that I'd be upset, and I might even want revenge, but that would be an emotional rather than a rational response. It would also be a personal matter between me and my friends' killers. But I imagine that my anger would be directed properly. In my opinion, our rulers are every bit as accountable for this as the perpetrators of the sabotage... their little power games brought this upon us. I would be under no illusion that the wealthy and powerful are innocent simply because they and I wanted revenge on the same people. As far as I'm concerned, exhorting the nation to back punitive military action is dissemblance, sleight-of-hand, and I feel people who are so easily redirected by their emotions are piteous. It's a shame that the most feeling and passionate people are the ones who are the most easily manipulated.
I fail to believe that the president and his men really care about any of us, except when we can be used for political momentum. I am unconvinced of anybody's sincerity in this matter. You have failed to reach Ashy's cold, black heart.
But even worse, there was something else I felt when I saw airliners tearing into the sides of the towers, watching the seemingly eternal icons of civilization's might collapse, hollow inside after all. Beneath everything else, I felt a current of elation. As I watched over and over, I had the faintest taste of the downfall of mankind, and I found that I enjoyed it. The demise of humanity is sweet to me. I fear I truly am a thing apart from the human race. I suppose that makes me a little threatening. But I suspect that if I take no sides in the great games the rulers of the world are engaged in, I will be of no concern.
The fat guy and I waited for the bus. We were both wearing black shirts and dark shorts, and it struck me that we'd look like some kind of Jack Sprat fat-and-skinny gay couple, with me being the girl, naturally. I decided I would try not to get a seat near him on the bus. I didn't need any new friends.