Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Inner Collapse

He gets onto the same train every day. Looking slightly surprised as if there should be a train at all, and steps through the door hesitantly. There’s a brief moment when you see something in him, something that seems familiar, something vulnerable. He finds a square space to stand and plants, replants his feet. He has the stature of a prop-forward; his massive shoulders roll down into huge fists, although he is the same height as me. His neck is wide; the triangle of his back taut as it pushes up into his head.

He looks at his watch. Twice. Then at his wrist. He looks to the left, although his eyes never quite focus on the crowds. His head snaps to the right, and he shrugs, rolls his massive shoulders, tucks his jaw into his collarbone. He shuffles to the left, and to the right. His head snaps back and he looks straight up, then looks at his watch again- a cheap watch, but even I can see that if I were to ask him what the time was after this brief double take, he wouldn’t know.

He’s the man with the tic.

His powerful build is surely in part due to the constant checking and rechecking, the compulsion to act out in certain ways has taught his muscles how to support the irregular yet regular activity. When I try and catch his eye, read his feelings, his head shakes to the left and the right, his eyes struggling to find something, nothing, to focus on.

I see the man with the tic, and I wonder if it is tension that he feels, or whether he is relaxed inside, and it is merely a muscular activity going on. The jerkiness of his movements seems to suggest some inner conflict, and I have to resist the urge to pat him on the shoulder, and say in my best soothing voice, it’s ok, friend, its ok.

When I see him, I feel less uncomfortable in my own stature- as if his apparent discomfort makes me feel more confident, his disability seems to translate into my feeling able and secure. Normally, I am not the most confident of people- seeming uncomfortable or nervous- actually- felling that way, too, but the man with the tic helps me to set my feet solidly in place, and to feel that despite my insecurities, I have at least a normal lack of confidence, or at best, I am at peace with myself.

I don’t mean to mock what is an obvious challenge to him, or to seem cruel by feeding off his weakness, but rather I am made aware that I have one less challenge than I could have in this world, and that his daily struggle is not one I share, although there is no reason why he should have that affliction and not I. I have my own inner tics and foibles, the voices telling me that I am this way or that, or that I am in some ways incapable of normalcy, but despite these chatterings and mutterings, I am able to present a person who, at least at face level, seems normal.

I hope it is human and not totally selfish to think this way: Does seeing a sight or hearing impaired person make you appreciate the things you are able to hear and see? Does a person sitting with withered angled limbs in a wheelchair make you appreciate being able to stride to the shop, and feel less inclined to complain about having to stand for too long? Perhaps I am selfish, although I know that these people with their outward challenges have inner beings too. That they are sometimes pleasant people, sometimes bitter. Sometimes filled with the capacity for love, sometimes hate. They are in every sense like me, only my afflictions are within.


  1. I guess the lesson is this: live your life, appreciate what you have and never take anything for granted. I try not to, though sometimes it's difficult to see the wood for the trees. Thanks for reminding me x

  2. I feel the same, but I also sometimes feel a little guilty... like I'm showing off by being near someone with an obvious disability that I don't have.

  3. @TBFKAMP: Yup- taking things for granted is a baaad idea. and at the momet, there are loads of trees, not so much wood.
    @angel: Guilt- keeps us healthy!


Say something! It can't be worse than what I have said. Note: Sometimes you have to press 'comment' twice. Stupid comments thingy.