Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Guilty?

Late the other night on West 4th Street I was at the light waiting to cross 6th Avenue. There was a homeless man yelling at some people behind me:

"Do you want to see me die? You would, wouldn't you? You want to see me jump off a bridge, step in front of a car?"

The guys he was yelling at crossed West 4th and I stood there waiting for the traffic...

"What about you Ma'am? You want to watch me die?"

The entire previous exchange left me feeling horrible, when it was focused at me I froze. These are the issues for me.

It's the middle of the night and I'm alone.
Ignore and move on.
Aggressive, ranting people on the street are rarely a safe bet.
Ignore and move on.
He called me "Ma'am". I hate that.
Ignore and move on.
What if he meant it?
Freeze.

I feel like I failed a test. Like I blew it. I know that's a little nutty (hellllo, I'm a little nutty), but I can't help feeling like a hypocrite. If the subject matter had been anything else I'd have no qualms. I don't give money to people on the street: I used to, and found every time I did it would turn bad. Leave it at that. But here's a guy... maybe he's really suicidal and somehow I could have helped (though the vibe was more aggressive than suicidal... how do I really know?).

I don't want to feel guilty about this... and I'm not sure that I actually do... but I do feel conflicted. I don't like feeling like a coward, or a hypocrite.... but maybe I was a bit of both. Or maybe I did the right thing.

I don't know.
I just don't know.

This is where my stomach knots up.

Part of me wants to stop and say "No. I do not want to watch you die. Suicide is not an answer. How can I help you?"

But the self-preservation instinct is stronger than the 'help a stranger' instinct. So I ignored and crossed the street.

In part I know I did the right thing. But part of me... coward.

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