Kind Words Of A Stranger

He delayed suicide again, one more time. Forrest just couldn’t end it right after she smiled at him, asked if he was lost and if he could use directions. He didn’t know who she was and a moment later she was gone. Forrest would continue for another day or perhaps a month until the cruel inner darkness returned.

He walked and watched alone in his shabby clothes, seemingly invisible. Lovers embraced, businessmen lunched and drank and everyone seemed to be happy and important. People found meaning in their work and in each other. They diverted themselves with fine entertainments, with travel, with plans.

Forrest lived (as per his nickname) in a public park, washed himself at a comfort station and ate picnic leftovers. He could barely remember his life before this and could not see any road ahead. He would mark time until it was time.

A few days later, just as he was ready to conclude things, this guy comes up to Forrest. The guy hands him a twenty and says “I see you’re down on your luck.” You could get a lot of good coffee with twenty dollars. Forrest loved good coffee. He’d keep going, at least long enough to spend the twenty.

Again, he was close to the end. The coffee was good, real good, but there was no more. That’s when he met Herbie who, like Forrest, was homeless, too. But Herbie was also old and sick. Herbie looked like a man who had little time left but didn’t notice it.

Herbie liked to talk.

“Hey, man. What’s cooking? I got these burgers, quite a haul. The kids at the picnic didn’t want burgers, they wanted pizza. Those kids were wailing and the parents left these and winked at me and here they are. And it’s your lucky day today, too, cause I’m sharing. Want the one with cheese or without?”

“Ummm, cheese,” said Forrest.

Herbie handed Forrest the cheeseburger and kept going.

“Sorry, no fries. Even these kids ate the fries. What kid doesn’t like fries? But I got Pepsi. It’s a little warm and flat, but it’s sweet.” Herbie poured.

Forrest appreciated the generosity but a few moments of kindness wasn’t going to delay his appointment with oblivion. This would be his last day.

But Herbie wasn’t done yet.

“Come here,” said Herbie. “I want to show you something.”

He led Forrest to a woodsy part of the park where there was a small gap in the woods that gave them a clear view looking down on the city. They stood on the ridge.

“Look at them down there,” said Herbie. “All those people. Professionals. Experts. Students, artists, lovers. All doing important things or enjoying themselves. But do you know what they’re really doing?”

After a long uncomfortable silence, Forrest said “no.”

“They’re trying to pretend they’re not afraid. They are trying to distract themselves. But they’re in the middle of things and they can’t see what we can clearly see from up here. Which as we both know is…”

There was another uncomfortable long silence. Forrest wanted to say “I don’t know” but he was scared.

“It doesn’t matter,” continued Herbie. “There’s nothing to be afraid of. Just keep doing what you’re doing completely engrossed in it. Or just do this.”

And without a sound or any fuss, Herbie stepped off the ridge.