I often go at the library on breaks or after work. It is open to everyone, warm, there are comfortable chairs and four very large floors so there are often homeless people in the hall or sleeping in the chairs. It usually doesn’t bother me. I fake not hearing them asking for money or speaking to me. If I look at them before realizing who it is, I smile and wish them a nice day. I only give money to some of them, mainly a twentysomething guy with dogs, or young girls.
I attract them and it has gotten me in trouble in the « yelling and being rude » kind of way. But as I was getting ready to take the stairs to go back down in the metro, there was a commotion. An old man, homeless and drunk, had fallen down the stairs. Two men were holding him, the security guards were calling for an ambulance. I picked up his things to give them to one of the guys and started taking the stairs.
A younger homeless guy started yelling that the old man was drunk, the old man sent him to Hell… The younger one started going down the stairs mumbling loudly about the old man’s ungratefulness. I finally said that maybe he didn’t like being told he was drunk.
I should have shut my mouth and fake being deaf and blind, mind my business and walked away. I had to reply !! He started talking loudly about how HE didn’t mind when people said he was drunk, that he was a drug addict and a guard had beaten him in the bus station’s public washroom as he had a seringe in his arm, society was unfair, people said things…
Every time I started walking away, he was following continuing his diatribe. I wanted to say something but what could I say to that ? And he was visibly high. I didn’t want him to follow me at work, I was shaken and uneasy. I don’t like hearing people talk about their drug use, I don’t like drunks. I felt sad.
I finally said that I felt uneasy about him talking about his drug use. He protested that he didn’t want that, that he was sorry, I should’ve told. I said I was telling him now. He walked away and I returned at work shaken and angry.
Sure I really disliked the whole thing. What made me angry was the « you should’ve told me » part. People expect me to « say something » as they tell their stories. I have to be rude, interrupt them to say I’m feeling this or that, or I have to say to them to stop whatever they’re doing. Well, news flash. Not everyone can identify what they are feeling in a nanosecond. And it takes more than a second to stop someone from telling their secrets, or their sobful stories, or their romantic intentions. I am often so shocked by the revelations that I am frozen !
I question myself on what can possibly send the signal that I’m interested (in this case I replied to what the guy was saying, obviously), that I want to hear that or that I care. Once I start asking myself how I can stop this, I have to plan a way to say I don’t want to hear it or I am not interested in a way that won’t be hurtful, too honest, rude… Let me tell you it isn’t as simple as saying Ciseaux.
I really wish some people would ask if they « can tell you something? » so I can say it depends what it is or say NO. Like that drug addict or the florist who was selling drugs…I wouldn’t have to deal with the emotional, ethical, sociological, emotional trauma the revelations leave me with.