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Alone or Among?

posted Apr 2, 2020, 2:04 PM by Colleen Getty   [ updated Apr 8, 2020, 1:07 PM ]

It seems that the default for life right now in the age of the virus that shall not be named toggles between: ALONE and AMONG. You are either quite alone, meaning you live alone and now you cannot even go and meet up with others or happen upon others as all others stay home, or you are among said “others” who are your family and with whom you are now in constant contact with and perhaps even homeschooling (aka: home-zooming).

A writerly friend of mine, Dom Capossela, publishes a daily blog—yes daily! He is dedicated to celebrating words and sharing thoughts on a daily basis and that third week of March, when things started getting “real” and humanity started to disappear from public view, Dom wrote something beautiful in his blog. He wrote of the change of landscape and how that changed his life’s pattern as well as a homeless woman’s disappearance from that pattern.

His poem prompted me to write a poem, too. I wanted to dance alongside his poem and create a mirror image of every move he was making. He had toggled “alone” while I was toggling “among.” It is not often a writer can dance with another writer through words, but his daily blog allows it. I will include below his poem of "alone" followed by mine of a life "among." As time goes on it is likely these two viewpoints will take on various tones and nuance, but I feel they both serve as a snapshot in time that reflects what has become a very fluid situation and a landscape that we may never again return to. And so, with that introduction—let’s dance!

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2.0   Commentary by Dom Capossela [ALONE]

Yan walks past me,

Looking asleep on her moving feet.

Ten minutes later walks past me again.

 

An older woman,

Whose lower jaw and teeth dramatically forward of her upper,

With legs misshapen and repulsively sored,

Of very few words, they guttural and barely intelligible,

Who has worn the same burlap-looking outfit that matches the burlap bag hanging round her neck,  

Which bag one feels contains her life’s possessions,

since I’ve become aware of her.

 

Yan,

Obviously homeless,

Uncared for,

Shunned because

Uncared for,

Adrift in the Prudential Mall, passes me once,

In ten minutes, a second time.

 

It’s Monday and the Blue Bottle café is closed for the first time

Since its opening on July 11, 2018,

Since the time I made it my workplace, seven days a week.

 

Sometime between then and now,

Closer to then,

Yan approached the cashier.

She drew attention: few homeless-types wander such a space: being as it is,

Dedicated to the pleasures of the well-to-do.

She ordered a drink and a yogurt cup.

She paid and she left a tip.

 

She waited for her order and carried it to the Blue Bottle communal table,

Shyly taking the chair most isolated from the other patrons

Who did little to mask their distaste.

 

She slowly ate and drank.

Did not dribble.

Did not slurp or spill.

She wiped her lips

And remained sitting.

Just sitting quietly.

Her head drooping.

Nodding.

Dozing.

Jerking awake.

To the disgust of the others.

 

Blue Bottle management was contacted.

Little they could do:

She a paying customer.

“Hello,” they could say, and

Did.


To wake her.

To tell her,

“You cannot sleep here.”

She smiled that distorted smile,

Although not without its charm –

The innocence of a child,

Willing to please,

Wanting to please,

Wishing to please. But

Needing to sleep.

 

Security was called.

But she not disturbing the peace.

A paying customer.

Warnings issued.

 

Eventually Yan got to know the names of a couple of us other daily customers and

Told us her name in return.

She smiling.

Happy to be acknowledged.

 

Eventually Yan got up the courage to move a chair to a space convenient to her:

A bit distant from the communal table.

A place where she was close enough to claim ownership of the two purchased cups but

Far enough away from the communal table so as not to

Discourage others from sitting.

 

And so matters rested for several months:

Yan asleep in a  chair warmed by the sun,

Not bothering anyone,

Her body healing itself, perhaps,

With a most-needed sleep,

Management, security, and random patrons accepting her presence.

Bliss.

 

For the down-trodden, too good never lasts.

Today the Blue Bottle Café in the Prudential Center closed for several weeks to come.


And Yan walks past me.


Squatters’ right taken from her.

No replacement chair in the entire mall:

All restaurants closing.

The mall’s own common seating off-limits:

Any homeless caught sitting, evicted.

Yan.

Adrift.

Passes, not noticing my wave.

Asleep, perhaps.

On moving feet.

Disappears down one of the mall’s walkways.

After twenty minutes, walks past again.

Still asleep.

On moving feet.

 

**Here is my response to Dom’s beautifully written portrait.**

 

New Normal, for Now by Colleen Getty [AMONG]

 

How to relate—

without comparing.

How to complain—without complaint.

Gratitude. A noble focus. A necessity.

“The good ole days” seemed something none of us ever lived,

but now, those “days” just last week, just two days gone—five hours prior.

Closed. Shut. Cerrado.

Alone we—

echo.

Early motherhood, romantic as a memory

now thrust back upon me. 24/7—but,

no playgroups, no museums, no libraries, no grandparent visits, no, no, no—no nada.

No time and yet lots.

Water, water everywhere—you know the rest.

Gratitude. A noble idea. A legend, perhaps.

Homeless, lifeless, desperate—

a useful comparison.

Yan, a gift held now. A reminder.

Can I complain?

I shouldn’t—but it’s human. We still human, even if only virtually so.

Virtuous? A goal.

Virtual. A reality. Visits sans hugs, sans human.

Gratitude. Keep it close. Focus and refocus on it.

A home. A family.

Not completely isolated and yet—

a few hours

alone

sounds

delicious.