a human story.
This could be any city, any town. A reprieve of green amongst an urban landscape of tall, gleaming buildings, men in suits passing by on their way to a meeting. Maybe it’s a park in a little town somewhere, kids playing off in the distance.
Is he a leather tramp taking a load off, lost in the dreams of an afternoon snooze before he catches the next train? Or maybe a hobo, passed out after a couple of bottles of cheap hooch, bought in a rush at a liquor store before the clerk shooed him out. He could be a fallen genius, buried beneath the waves of his mind which make him so.
Most will walk by this man without a thought. Most will not take the little time it will take to look closer, to see if he’s okay. Most. Aren’t interested. Most. Do not see, cannot see his humanity. Most will never hear the story he has to tell.
He was eighteen when he enlisted, just graduated high school. It was just the two of them, he and his father. It was father that suggested it, he thought maybe it would do the boy good, give him a sense of responsibility, structure. And he knew his boy was smart. Scarily so.
He signed the papers, came back two days later to take a test. One of those aptitude sort of things. He was exceptional, they told him, they knew where he’d fit in. His training was long, tedious, but he liked it okay. It kept his mind busy, occupied. It gave him something to focus on. Until the thoughts started. First just a stream of ones and zeros, he translating in his head as they raced through his mind. Then branching out into questions. What were they using them for? To spy? To kill? Then further, he thought of the people he knew lived and existed at the end of those numbers. What would his numbers be to them? Their capture? Their death?
He knew he would never ask. They told him not to. He kept it all in. Never spoke, always keeping his thoughts close to himself. They were his, after all. He was strong, put on his brave face, however you wanna look at it. And they didn’t care as long as he did his job, really.
It was years before he started falling apart. I can’t remember how long, he told me quite a while ago. They’d tried a couple of meetings first, but those didn’t work. A couple of therapy sessions later and he was out. He never told me, or couldn’t, I’m not sure which. But I never learned just what it was at the end of his ones and his zeros. Him, I guess. Alone. Abandoned by them.
Everyone has a story, you know? All different, all the same. Human. Just like all of those who pass him by.