rage and despair

I heard a drunk girl screaming bloody murder the other night, and went outside to make sure she was okay. I couldn't quite piece together the scene--she was in an incoherent rage, not sure whether she wanted to attack the boys trying to calm her down or flee the scene. I watched long enough to decide that she wasn't in any danger--or at least, not the sort of danger I could help with. Eventually one of her companions saw me watching and told me to fuck off. I smiled at him and walked back inside.

Watching this scene put me in a bad way. I felt claustrophobic, felt like I should have done something instead of making an assumption based on incomplete evidence that everything was all right. What right do I have to define if something is all right? This woman, surrounded by friends whose interest in calming her down ranged from the genuine-seeming "shh, it's okay" to the annoyed and patronizing "shut the fuck up, Amy," was about as alone as I'd ever seen anyone.

And she represented everything I'm afraid of about the city. It is so much easier to be alone when you are surrounded by millions of people--and that isolation is so much more crushing than the isolation of the wilderness. I have sworn that if I am able I will help people in need--not because I am a good man but because I refuse to be less than human. But how can I help someone expressing rage and despair I could never hope to understand?

Her friends, if that's even the right word, frog-marched her off down a different street. I sat on the porch for a long time with a cigarette and listened, really listened, to the city. I imagined that everyone I saw walking down our street was involved with this scene somehow, talking or laughing about it. And I cursed the selfish desire to help, to prove to myself that we aren't alone in the city, or that if I ever break down there would be someone there to catch me.

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