It’s a twenty walk from my flat to my workplace, roughly a mile. When I head in its usually afternoon but by the time I get out it’s typically the early hour of the morning- latest time I left was at like four o’clock in the morning.
You see some weird shit on the walk home, especially on the weekend. Pubs emptying out, people pissing on the street, a few fights breaking out, couples screaming at each other. Young ones struggling to get a taxi home cause they didn’t think out their night out to the city.
You always see some young woman sitting chatting to a homeless person asking about “how they got there” with her man standing by, pure annoyed. Both you and he know that by the morning this girl will cross the street to avoid looking at this person. Only reason she’s suddenly so compassionate is cause she’s drunk.
The drunk ones fumble into fast-food joints to pick up food they will later drop on the street or maybe boke on the floor. Sometimes its so late that you see these same joints closing down. You nod to the employees cause you know the craic with working late nights and being bothered by drunk ones. You think of them as silent comrades.
By the time you get home you’ve seen some weird shit. Some funny, like this guy tricking two of his friends to compete in a Ninja Warrior type competition. So while these two morons are doing pull-ups off the bus stop, he gets to go home with the girl.
Sometimes you see some fucked up stuff, like you’re pretty sure you might have saw a girl get raped- you’re hesitant because you were on the other side of the street walking home, watching these two people curt but you’re dead certain that girl was too drunk to stand let alone know what the fuck is going on.
Other times it’s just weird. Like this one time I was pretty sure this guy was going to try and mug me. I’m half way home and I see this guy ahead of me, giving me this death stare. His body moved rigidly, composed for a scrap, trying to look as intimidating as possible. Two thoughts popped up in my mind when I saw him 1) this cunt’s looking a scrap, and 2) this cunt looks like my cousin, Cathair.
As I walk past, this boy stops- eyes of murder on me and says “got any change on ye, lad?” in what I presume is a Glaswegian accent and a rhetorical question. I’d just gotten off a twelve-hour shift, in December, so I look this cunt up and down- unimpressed- I then snort and say “Nah.” then walk on.
The fear of death is no match to mortal exhaustion.
As I walked away I kept an eye out for his shadow and footsteps, in case this cunt was gonna try and run up on me. He didn’t. But I played it out in my head anyway. Thought there was a 50% chance he’d try some shit. 75% chance that he’d do so if the street had been empty and only 25% chance anyone would come to my aid.
Sounds pretty bad, but believe it or not those odds would be worse in Derry City. Passersby would be liable to help the cunt rob you.
I don’t get a taxi because I can’t waste the money. But I tell myself that this walk is something I have to do. You have to see the city like this, you have to see the people. I don’t know why but it’s a thing I have to experience, over and over again.
When I first moved here I felt really bad passing by homeless people. I can’t help it, I’m a country boy, I see people suffering and that just bothers me. It bothers me a lot. But I got bills to pay and I have no money to spare, so I can’t help these people. But it bothers me still. So when I pass by them I have to go through a phase, become inhuman, emotionless, um-empathetic. You have to calcify the heart so that you feel no grief.
The problem is I got to good at it. I don’t even have to think to myself “you need to calcify the heart” it’s already there, calcified. Before I felt pure rotten for doing this, but now I either feel indifferent or angry. The flip-side to empathy is hate, after-all.
The reason I’m talking about this today is because I believe this method is making me a worse person. It diminishes my ability for empathy. But more importantly I think everyone has this issue, to some degree or another. Cause there’s hundreds of thousands of people in this city and they seemingly couldn’t give a flying fuck about people living on the streets.
Some people don’t even have to think about calcifying the heart. Instead they either couldn’t give a shit in the first place or tell themselves that the people begging on the street are either wasters or scammers trying to trick you out of your money. I’ve heard all the stories and I just…I don’t know. Even if they were scammers, begging on the street is not a good life.
I feel like both trust and empathy are diminishing over time, especially with the influence of the internet. You get that story from America in which this woman was stabbed by a beggar only for it to turn out to be her husband and daughter who made the whole thing up to get away with murder.
There’s so many lies and fake news out there where it’s not surprising to find people questioning whether or not hate crimes actually happened or if the victim made the whole thing up. It’s so fucked.
I don’t know how to fix all of this. But I do know how to fix homelessness. It’s not the individual’s responsibility to take care of everyone, it’s the state’s. It cost’s £16K a year to clean up after one homeless person when it only costs £12K to house them. The government can easily take care of its citizens but it actively chooses not to.
It’s easy to be cold, malicious or uncaring. But it’s more important to be good- we need more good in this world.