other people’s stories

Our interpretation of other people’s narratives or characters sometimes conflict with the story they are living. Yesterday on the local train, I noticed that a young man sitting in front of me was crying. He had his back to me but his shoulders were shaking and as he turned his face to the window I could see he was crying and I started to hear his gasping sobs. He looked poor, his clothes shabby. I was momentarily wary of approaching him but I pushed away the idea that it might be drug related or that he might be violent (two prejudices that came up straight away). Another fear was that I might create some kind of dependency (!?) if I comforted him (‘what might you get yourself into?’) But I did go over and ask if he was okay. I touched his shoulder and his t-shirt was soaking, as if he’d been standing out in the rain. I said something like ‘whatever it is, it will pass’. He said it was okay but carried on sobbing. I didn’t want to intrude further, he seemed to need to carry on crying so I went and sat back on my seat. At the next stop two loud couples got on and I feared there might be a clash, that they’d ridicule him for being vulnerable (again thinking the worst). But like me, they (one of the young men, his age) asked if he was okay. He looked up and they recognised him and asked, even more concerned, if he was all right. Through his tears he gave them a cheery reassurance and went to the exit doors. When he got off, I heard the couples recall his grandfather was very ill and guess he may have died. The mixture of pain and compassion was a salutary reminder of the people concerned’s humanity. The type of people so often feared or scorned.

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About Carol McGuigan

writer, performer, wonderer As a writer I am represented by Euan Thorneycroft at A.M. Heath http://www.amheath.com/pages/authors/view.asp?id=406 As a performer by Janet Plater http://www.janetplatermanagement.co.uk/ there's also a brief but currently out of date biog about my writing on the Literature North East site http://www.literaturenortheast.co.uk/writers/Carol_McGuigan_A-Z
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