Wednesday, August 10, 2011

#273: Knocking At Your Back Door

Back in around 1658 I worked as a person who’d lease shrubberies to the underprivileged. One of my customers came from a place that made Borstal look white, clean and neat, but there he sat, waiting for someone to spring him to freedom. He was born with a mild intellectual, and a physical, disability, as a result of which his family shunned him and left him to fend for himself. He basically pinballed around the place, always looking for a new shrub to hide beneath and hopefully call his own, instead of the branch that he currently had.

When I met him he was in a bad, yet positive shape. In the place that makes Borstal look good he was being exploited and easily led down garden paths that he shouldn’t have been led down. I worked hard and spoke with people, the end result was that we got some more gardeners involved, good gardeners, the kind of gardeners who would, and did, help him. They helped him get new clothes to replace the rags he wore, little things like food and televisions and the like. Good stuff. He was happy, but he didn’t want to sit out on the branch at the place that made Borstal look good. That’s where I really kicked in.

I found him a shrubbery. It wasn’t a pretty shrubbery, but he could move into it whenever he wanted to and live in peace and quiet. He was overjoyed, but dismayed as he’d have to find a way to break his agreement with the owner of the place that makes Borstal look good. “Jeez,” I said, “I can fix that.” I then picked up my tin can on a string and spoke to the owner, who was happy that our lad had found his own shrubbery. All was good. We then piled into the Flintstone car and visited the shrubbery. We moved him in the following week.

All was good. He’d have his moments though. He didn’t know how to clean the bottom of his shrubbery, after all he’d been in and out of places since he could remember, abused and abandoned. I bought a mop, bucket and some cleaning products, took them to him and showed him how to clean his shrubbery. While there I noticed that someone had moved in, so I told them to leave, which they did. I then told our lad that his shrubbery was just that – his shrubbery, and that he shouldn’t allow people to move in. He agreed, but damn, it was hard when people asked because he didn’t have many chums, and who cared if they sold things they shouldn’t? I liked him in with more gardeners.

After a fashion the good gardeners fell away as our lad just stopped visiting them. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to visit, it’s just that he often forgot, or was just too silent, so people forgot about him. I kept working with him though and he was happy. We had bad monkeys move nearby and we went to court, our lad came along and I was with him all the way. The bad monkeys left and our lad was happy that he’d done the right thing. Then things happened.

A gorilla decided that he wanted to build a new place where sick people could go, so he withdrew a lot of bananas from a lot of gardeners. Another gorilla decided that he wanted to build a place where other monkeys could go to screech and yell at apes throwing coconuts at each other, so he sacked a lot of gardeners and took away yet more bananas. Yet another gorilla decided that he wanted to make his shrubbery look good, so he spent a lot of bananas and closed down several departments of gardeners to do it. All this resulted in our lad going to appointments only to have the doors shut on him and him being left to fend for himself. Even I had to leave, and when I did he cried and said, “But who’s going to help me now?” “You’ll be fine,” I replied, “you know what to do.”

Every so often I’d see him in the trees, he’d stop me and say hello and we’d speak. He seemed happy, yet sad, and he began to look as dishevelled as he was at the start of the process. He’d stopped washing all the time, his clothes were manky and he smelt. But, he assured me, he was doing his best and just waiting for more gardeners to come on board and help him. I’d tell him I wish I could do more, but the ape who was in charge of me didn’t like me and had me removed. Such is life.

Eventually our lad did something very dark and unspeakable. He didn’t take a life, but he came very close to it, and now our lad will have to face the consequences. He'll end up in a place that'll make Borstal look like Heaven, a place that'll make Bedlam look like holiday camp.  Eventually he’ll be placed into a system that won’t help him, because it can’t help him, because it hasn’t the resources or bananas to help him and he’ll just vanish, forgotten until he fades away. It may not be my fault but I feel partially to blame as I wasn’t there to help him through his issues as much as I should have been. Other gardeners probably feel the same, but we’ll have a new place to throw balls, get better in and someone has a lovely shrubbery with a great view for the days when he wants to turn up to yell at monkeys. And, frankly, that’s all that seems to matter these days. Apes can take monkeys one third their age out clubbing and pick fights, apes can crack onto anyone, apes can do what they want, but monkeys that need help the most just aren’t getting it, nor are they likely to get it.

This world is neither kind, nor is it just, nor is it fair. It abandons the people who need help the most so that those who do not need, nor deserve good things can have them. People talk about the ‘legacies’ that they leave behind. Next time an ape says that near me I’m going to tell them, exactly, what kind of a legacy that they have left behind. A legacy of broken people, broken lives and cracks so massive that people don’t slip through them, entire buildings fall deep into them without ever hitting the sides. When some apes retire, millionaires, to the shores of the Mediterranean, when they slip off to make more wealth for themselves, perhaps one day they’ll hear the voices of those perfect strangers as they call into the wind, they won't know who it is or what they want, but they'll hear them.  And even then, as they do now, they'll ignore them.

 In the meantime, this week at least, I’ll keep walking in the rain, that way everyone will continue to think I’m tough and heartless because they’ll not see any tears running down my cheeks.  The Bear told me, "You can't save everyone," and she's right.  But I can try, and when I fail, it hurts.  Perhaps they were right when they told me I wasn't cut out for that line of work.  I'm not detached enough.

Thank Buddha for that.

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