The Problem

I’m a little tipsy. I’ve had a few pints. And I’m walking through the bus station. Smiling.

I don’t know why but when I’m tipsy it’s like I act as a magnet to every other person who’s reality is skewered. It’s like crazy can smell crazy, and everyone knows I can’t think straight.

I walk by a homeless man. He’s lying in a shop doorway, slowly licking a cigarette he’s in the middle of rolling. I’m still smiling to myself when I make eye contact. An invite. He stops licking the cigarette and stares back, shouting up into the doorway “LADIES AND GENTLEMEN! CAN YOU SPARE SOME CHANGE!” and I know he’s really saying “you, can YOU spare some change” but by the time he’s finished his sentence I’m no longer looking at him and I’m pretending he’s not there and I can feel his eyes watching me as I walk by.

I sit down in the bus station. Wait for my bus.

I feel guilty. I ignored something in plain sight. A man looked into my eyes, I looked back. Then moments later I pretended he wasn’t there. I feel disgusted with myself. But I don’t go back and give him any change. I’m too ashamed. I wonder why I’m too ashamed to give money to a person in need. He needs the money more than I. But I feel like everyone would look at me, say “look at him, giving money to a homeless person.” I don’t have the guts.

I wallow in self-pity.

Then another man comes over. He wears a cream coloured suit, slightly dusty after what was obviously a good night. The good night is spread on his face in the form of a wide smile, each muscle of his face joins in on the activity.

“When do you reckon the bus is coming?”

I know when the bus is coming. He knows when the bus is coming. There’s a digital sign beside us, telling us when the bus is coming. I humour him anyway.

“About 10 minutes, mate.”

He’s not my mate, but I’m tipsy and he looks like the type of person that would make a good mate. He repeats my answer through his wide grin “about 10 minutes?” and he laughs loudly.

I get caught up in the laugh and I laugh with him, “aye, about 10 minutes!” I say. He laughs again. I laugh again. I’m laughing at a joke I don’t understand, a joke he probably doesn’t understand, but it doesn’t matter because we’re both happy and we’re laughing.

He skulks off a bit to talk with other people. But I know he’ll be back. Jovial people in white suits always come back.

He comes back.

“Hey mate!” he says. I turn to him, we make eye contact, but he says it again, just incase I’m looking through him. “Hey mate! I’ve got a problem.” I don’t say anything, but he knows I want him to continue.

As he tells me his problem he continues to smile, the happiest man alive. “I’ve only gone and got myself two girlfriends haven’t I?!”

He laughs. I laugh. We laugh. “Two girlfriends?! How’s that a problem?!” He laughs again. I laugh again. We laugh again.

“Well” he says “I love ’em both, don’t I!” His grin seems to get wilder, so happy about his problem. I grin back and my moral side speaks up “maybe you should own up?”

Stupid suggestion. He shakes his head. Walks away for a few steps, staring at the ground, mulling over the thought. He paces back “nah, I can’t man. I can’t!” He pleads with me, begs me to give him better advice, the wrong advice.

“How’d you get yourself into this mess?” I wonder aloud.

He runs his hand through his curly grey hair. His mouth still grins but his forehead wrinkles, deep in thought.

Well…she broke up with him didn’t she! Then when he was out the next week. You know, at that pub just around the corner. Just over there. He met the other one didn’t he, and she was amazing man, wasn’t she! Then a few days later his lass rang up didn’t she. Said she might have made a mistake, wanted him back didn’t she. Then he was stuck with both of them wasn’t he.

I sigh deeply. “I think you’ve got to pick one of them over the other, mate.” And he is my mate now.

He doesn’t even let me finish the sentence though. “You don’t understand man..” he brings out his hands, places them in front of him. “You see..” he shakes his right hand “..this one has a great house…” he shakes his left hand “..and this one has a great house.”

He looks at me as though it should make sense, but we both know it doesn’t, he swings his hands back down and sighs. He paces away again, but a presence stays in his place, a piece of energy holds his spot. He jumps back and tries to explain it again.

“You see mate, this type of thing…like…” his eyes dart about as he tries to figure out the words to tell me. “The chances of this happening are like, one hundred thousand to one.”

I tell him. He has to choose. One of them. He has to choose.

He shakes his head, continues to grin. “I can’t choose man. I just can’t. And this whole thing, you know. It tears me apart. In here.” He points to his chest, the grin still wide across his face. But he’s betrayed by his eyes. The eyes tell me the smile is a lie and the eyes turn the grin into a grimace.

I think of what to say, some choice words of wisdom and  but after a few moments he walks away. Gone.

This time he doesn’t come back.

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