I don’t know where to put my sadness. Like junk mail piling up in an abandoned letterbox, random sketches of human frailty accumulate in my soul.
There was an ad on TV years ago for Sustagen Gold, a “protein-rich, powerhouse of sustained energy” milk drink. The ad was aimed at busy people who didn’t have time to eat properly in a city that was thwarting them at every turn. In one scene, pedestrians rush past a business man whose briefcase has spilled out on the road at a busy crossing. He struggles to gather his possessions, including a green apple that has fallen from his case. I was probably 8 or 9 years old when this ad was playing on TV and I can still pull the image from my mind. I was struck by the vulnerability of the man. The apple represented his private life, laid bare on a city street. My sister and I felt so sorry for the briefcase man. Every time the ad came on, he tugged at our heart strings. People eating alone in restaurants killed us too.
In order to get through life you need to armour plate your soul a little. We can’t be shedding a tear every time a man in a suit drops his apple. But occasionally a dagger of sadness can still pierce your heart.
Last Friday, on my commute home from work, I took notes about a fellow passenger:
A young boy sits next to me on the Light Rail. He is the stereotypical “nerd”: pale, delicate, coke-bottle glasses. Gives credence to the term “nose buried in a book”. Head down, he is sucking up words like an anteater, snout scanning back and forth across the print. He wants to eat those words, they mean something to him, but his eyesight is failing him. How cruel is life? People who care nothing for words with the ability to read fine print. And my neighbour, this vulnerable boy – bully bait – who only wants to devour his story, but his handicap is…well, handicapping him. He pauses often, and then returns. He wants to know the story. Finally I understand large print books and audio books. Why should anyone miss out? The able bodied are arrogant and selfish. So many people fall just short of the mark. Real happiness is just beyond their reach.
In an attempt to illustrate what the boy looked like, I have photoshopped a Womble reading. It doesn’t really do it justice, but I think it is a sweet image.