“Life’s tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late” Benjamin Franklin
I see them everyday and I study them. One represents what I never was and the other what I fear most. They’re just two guys on the subway from downtown Los Angeles to North Hollywood.
The first guy is “20 something” with movie star looks. The kind of person, whether you’re straight or gay you have to stare at because he’s perfect. He’s of some kind of Middle Eastern/Greek/ Romanian/Jewish/Italian/just freaking lucky mixture. I figure he’s clerking in a law firm… just waiting to pass the bar. He’s definitely not from money but his kids will be. He gets on at Pershing Square and he sits motionless is his seat with ear buds in place listening…. he never says a word to anyone… he simply listens. His eyes have the innocence of not seeing too much or doing too much with people he’s trying to forget. He knows his time using mass transit is limited, so he waits until we reach Hollywood where he quietly exits in wrinkled khakis and dull, lifeless black dress shoes. The subway won’t be his world, nor the riders his neighbors. Someday a girl will fix him and he’ll be the prized addition to the right family. At that point, his life will become privileged, and the $1.75 subway ride a memory… but it won’t happen today.
As he exits the train I act as if I remember being him. That’s delusional! I was never the beautiful guy… but I wanted to be… at best, I’m marginally above average. My face is a face… nothing remarkable there. I had a nice looking body ( past tense) a great sense of humor and a very distinctive voice. Nothing about me is remarkable other than I have survived a lifetime of self-destruction, battered, bruised and a little worn. That is the reality of my life. It is what it is… period… paragraph… end of story.
The second guy is “50 something” and spends his rides on his iPhone frantically punching the screen to find a life.. He’s 15 pounds over weight and has hair dyed a ridiculous color that comes in a “Just For Men” box. His eyes tell it all … he’s unemployed and panicking. This wasn’t supposed to happen to him. He attended every seminar… every course… every fund-raiser to prove he was part of the corporate team and they let him go. He’s guilty of the imponderable sin of aging. His youth is gone… and the career that took it is gone too…. I’m gonna bank the kids are grown and the wife is leaving soon. Where did it all go? How did he end up on the subway with those people? A lump forms in his throat and I can see his eyes watering… he stares lost out the window at the tunnel’s darkness. The gun he bought to protect his family is always on his mind.
As he exits the train I want to hug him. I don’t need to insult him with “everything’s gonna get better” or “it could be worse”. I don’t need to say anything at all. Sometimes people don’t need words… they need a hand to hold.
I’ve been the lost guy wandering in the wilderness. I’ve watched it all slip away as I spiraled out of control on drugs and alcohol… I never want to be him again. Yet, I know all I have to do is drink or use and the sadness and sorrow will return with a vengeance taking everything I love with it.
On the days I don’t see them I wonder if the right family finally saved the young guy or if the gun at home completed the ending to the other man’s struggles.
In my life I’ve lived, I’ve loved, I’ve lost, I’ve missed, I’ve trusted, I’ve hurt, I’ve made mistakes, but above all I’ve learned.