Sunday, April 29, 2012

Fear Itself

I was on the bus on my way home from school. It was about 5:30 and cloudy. I remember because I always check my phone in crowded places, even though I'm not talking to anyone. It was the type of cloudy day where you know a storm is coming. They're heavy dark clouds. The air smells wet. The people walk briskly. The bus was full, so I was standing, holding on to a pole.

Ugh, I hate standing up on the bus.

(I do this all the time!)
There was a drunk man standing up as well, right next to me. He looked like he was in his mid thirties. He had a dirty baseball jacket, (I forget which team) and light brown, baggy pants. I remember his patchy 5 o'clock shadow. His tired eyes were yellow where white was supposed to be and were surrounded by red rings. He was having trouble standing up when the heavy bus made quick turns.

I checked my phone again. It's only been fifteen minutes. My book bag felt so heavy the moment I put my phone away. I looked out the window. Rain began to pour. I like rain. But the thing about buses is, you can't look out the windows when they're wet. Just a bunch of distorted colors.

"Leave me alone" a man in about his 60s said. The drunk man was pestering him. I turned from the window to look at them. Everyone turned. The drunk man began to punch the man's chest, who was sitting down with a cane by his side. He was no boxer, but you could clearly see it bothered the old man. "I'm gonna call the cops if you don't stop," he said. But he continued.

I wanted to say something. I was right next to him. Leave him alone, I thought I said. But it was just my mind. In your mind, you can scream all you want. But no one will ever know. "Stop it!" the man said. Stop it, my mind repeated. I was frozen. Whats wrong with me? Fear. I was afraid that the man might have a knife or something. People who punch the elderly in the chest on a bus are not exactly wrapped so tight. I felt ashamed though.

I looked around at all the other men in the bus. Some twice this drunk man's size. I looked at the women (I'm pathetic). But they all just watched. I felt like punching all of them instead of the drunk man. Absolutely no one did or said a thing.

The old man raised his arm and pulled the cord. He immediately stood up and walked towards the door. "He punched me! That man punched me," he told the bus driver. The bus driver look at the back of the bus. He saw a bunch of cowards and a brave, drunk man. He opened the door and the old man walked out. He stumbled as he stepped down.

(Weird people are always on the bus.)

I got off the bus a few blocks later and walked the rest of the way home. Fear is a strange thing. It's a selfish thing. It wants to keep us safe. It wants us to live in a white room with cushions all around and with a helmet on our head. It wants us to stay in bed, with our warm covers, surrounded by thick walls while danger stays on the outside.

This was a few years ago. A few days ago I told my mom about it. "You did the right thing" she said. "He could have hurt you."

"Not even the grown men did anything about it."
"You see, they know. They're adults. They know more. They're wiser than you are."

But I don't know. I felt like a coward. I felt like if I was watching Jesus get crucified and not saying a thing. I wonder if anyone said anything back then. They just let him die. Maybe he wanted help. I know I would have. I know the old man wanted help.

People always tell their best friends, "I would take a bullet for you." But would they really? Would you really give your life for someone else? I find it hard to imagine that anyone would. Even if they say they would. They'd be just like me. Frozen.

If I did the right thing, then why do I feel so bad? Every ounce of strength I had in my body was telling me to help. Every breath. Every heartbeat. Every thought. But some force, almost external, held me back.

The movie of my life. And in this scene, I was a coward. The audience in the theater yelled. They called me a coward. "If it was me, I would've helped," they would say. And in all this commotion, no one would interrupt and say "shhh. I'm trying to watch the movie." And I would sit in the front row. With the screen right on my face. and I would slightly cover my face, so that no one would recognize me. I would be the only one who was quiet.

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I want to be brave. I want to have courage. I want to help old people on the bus from drunk men. I want to help that lady whose purse gets stolen while she walks to the bank and the robber runs away. I want to chase after him and return the purse and get a kiss from the lady, who would then love me forever for my bravery.

(She would kiss me.)
 Being brave is tough. It's fighting all of our instincts to stay safe and save someone's life. People are afraid to be the first anything. They want to know if its possible first. So be that beacon. Be that light-house by the stormy ocean guiding the ship to safety. Don't be afraid to be the first to say you don't like the way something is. People will then follow. You'll get that kiss from the lady in the street. I know that if I would have said something, some of the other people would then have joined in. The old man would have thanked us. He would have walked out of that bus a different man. Instead of stepping out of the bus with the weight of a humanity that's too scared for change thus causing him to stumble, he would have lightly stepped down, knowing that there's good in the world. Knowing that there's faith in humanity.

He would have gone home. Opened the door to his house, and with a smile on his face he would hang up his jacket. His wife Jane or something would say, "what's up with you?" (is that how people in their sixties talk?) and he would tell her the whole story. How he was saved. And they would both go to bed and feel safe that night.

Then maybe someday, as the movie plays along, people will clap. They will yell. Kids will walk out of the theater and tell their parents they want to be just like you. And maybe. Hopefully. Someone in the theater says, "Shhh. I'm trying to watch the movie."

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