A story about a man
August 10, 2010

He sank into the sofa and stared at the blank screen of the television. He tried to tune out but the baby cried. They struggled with the baby.

He didn’t read the paper, or watch the news anymore. He didn’t want to feel grief for the family who’d lost their child in a house fire. He didn’t want to face disappointment in his leaders. He didn’t need the guilt about climate change and driving his god damned car. He didn’t need those burdens.

It was hard enough.  The baby was always crying. His wife was always struggling. How could he shoulder the burden of the world when he could barely manage his own and the baby was always, always crying.

He had no real friends and nobody to talk to about the things he cared about. He told himself he had no time for friends but the truth was that he had no one he could really talk to. His opinions were not popular ones. He knew this because the newspapers used to tell him so.

‘OK, I get it. I am the odd man out.’

The doorbell rang. He hauled himself over to the door. It was the girl from next door. She was crying. She told him that her mum was upset and wouldn’t come out of the bathroom.  She said the new baby wouldn’t stop crying.

He looked at her blankly. ‘You too huh?’.

He ran into the kitchen where his wife was cutting onions. Her eyes watered.

He told her about the girl.

She placed the knife and the half onion on the board and wiped her hands. She stormed out from behind the bench. She didn’t like being interrupted at dinnertime.

He was mistaken as he watched her march up to the door. He realised she wasn’t annoyed. She was concerned.

His wife disappeared with the girl in tow. He watched as they half-ran out of the yard and into the open door of the neighbouring house.

He stood at the door, anxious.

A feeling washed over him and he sighed.

It was relief.

Relief that the burden of another’s pain was something they could affect. They could place a hand on it.

A familiar-faced journalist did not deliver it to them in a timed and heartless selection of images and text.

It was not a catalyst for impotence.

A street-walking, badge-selling, money-taking figurehead did not impose it upon them.

It was a simple act of charity. Not an exercise in egotism, but real charity.

The kind that costs more than dollars and cents.

The kind that comes from instinct, not vanity.

He sighed again and the baby slept.