Saturday, 30 January 2010

The moments that make us.

I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, whether it be good or bad, everything happens to teach us, to shape us, to make us into the people we are. I believe in the butterfly affect, that one decision at one time will have an affect, positive or negative, on a later event. Tonight has only strengthened this belief for me.

I was walking home after an eight hour shift going through all the thoughts that have been bothering me the last few days, thinking about what to write on my blog when I got home, about what new self involved personal drama I could go on and on and on about. I had been offered to work until 11o'clock, get some extra hours and I turned it down, I wanted to go home. I had been offered a lift and I turned that down too, I wanted the walk. Both two little decisions which would have totally changed the outcome of this evening for both myself and who knows however many others.

I was about half way home, just crossed the river, when I noticed something, someone, fall over down the river bank. I was too far away and it was too dark to make out exactly who or what it was and as I saw someone walk right on by I guessed it was probably just an animal or a bin bag floating in the wind. As I began to get closer yet another person walked right past where I had seen this figure, but I still kept my eyes locked onto the river bank.

When I eventually got closer to the area I realised it was a person, fallen and rolling around in the dirt. It was too dark to work out right away if this person was drunk or had tripped and hurt themselves so I slowed down to get a better look. As I got closer the person slowly began to pull themselves up and make their way back up the riverbank. I was nervous, I had no idea who this person was or how or why they had fallen down the bank, nor did I know what their intentions might be, but I was worried, I wanted to help this person if I could, two other people had already walked on by, if I did the same and this person was in need of help how many others would continue to carry on until they finally got it.

As he walked up the hill towards me I realised he was drunk, but my nerves took a step back as I realised this was just a kid. Instantly I asked him if he was OK, he said he was drunk and stoned, he kept tripping as he continued to walk up the hill. I started to walk with him, talking to him trying to find out what he had taken. He told me he had had a spliff and that he had tried speed for the first time as well as drinking a bottle of wine and various spirits.

I looked around and could not see a single person, where were his friends? Had he drank alone? Where was he from?

I began to walk towards the uni with him, asking him questions, trying to keep talking. He told me he was 17, his name was Ben or 'B' to his friends, he was at the local college studying health and social care and all his friends had gone. He stared asking me questions, where I was from, was I at the uni, what was I studying and then he told me I should become a councilor because I seemed to have a very natural way of talking to people.

I ended up walking him all the way home, right to his front door. On the way he told me how the last four generations of men in his family had died due to alcoholism but that he did not class himself as one, he just liked to drink and get high. He told me about his best friend dying a year ago and how he drown in the river, he told me how until the age of nine he had never lived in a house for longer than a year and that he had lived all over the country, from London to Leicester and eventually moved to Worcester where his Dad was born. He told me how his girlfriend Helena who he was madly in love with broke up with him a month ago because he was 'too boring' and he said how his parents probably wouldn't be mad at him for coming home in this state because they usually aren't unless he were to 'do something really stupid'.

He also told me how he wants to help people, that he wants to be a councilor of some sort and help people through their problems, but how he wasn't sure if he could cope listening to everyone else's problems when he already has his own and he told me how he wants to go to uni when he finishes college in a year and a half.

Seeing him like this shocked me. I know what it is like to be so drunk you can't remember what you did the next day, and I know what it is like to feel like the only way out of problems is to block them out using some sort of barrier, they are all things I have experienced, but I have never experienced seeing someone else, a stranger, a child, go through it. I know it goes on, of course I do. I've grown up with my Auntie in and out of jail and her kids living with every member of family alive, including me and my parents, and I've got my friends back home when they have had too much to drink, I have called for ambulances when my best friends have passed out and stopped breathing and I have called the police when gangs have started beating up my best friends because of the way they were dressed and I have ran and got myself locked in a petrol station while I waited for the same police to escort me back to my friends because the gang were waiting across the road for me. So I know what its like, life. I know that these things go on and I have experienced them and seen others experience them, but I have never helped a stranger back home before because he tried drugs and drank too much and all of his friends had left him.

Before I got to him, Ben, two people walked past, two people who saw him fall down the river bank, two people who were older than me, two people who were probably a lot stronger than me, two grown men, and neither of them stopped to help. They didn't want to know because a lot of the time we don't want to. We are all guilty of it. Maybe it is because we have too many of our own issues going on to spare a moment for someone else's, maybe it is because we are scared to know, because when we find out what causes these things we are invited in a world of danger, a world where wrong triumphs, where children die and parents don't care, where drugs are available to anyone, any age, a world that many people would be quite happy never acknowledge. But maybe it is a world we need to learn about, a world we need to accept exists, a world we need to embrace and understand, because maybe once we understand it we can stop it.

Earlier this week I went missing. To myself I knew exactly where I was, and I was safe, but to my friends I had disappeared. I lost my phone and got put in a taxi by someone I had only met that night. I was too drunk to look after myself properly and my friends knew this. Thankfully I made it to a friends house but it wasn't until after over an hour of driving round town and calling various people had passed that my friends found out where I was.

Tonight got me thinking. What if that had been me? What if I hadn't have got into that taxi, if I had tried to walk home on my own and tripped? Would anyone have stopped and helped me, and if so how long would I have had to wait until they did?

After walking Ben home and helping him open his front door I stood on his driveway for a few moments, wondering what to do next. He was home, he was in doors and his family were in, but who knows what goes on behind closed doors. We are all capable of hiding how we really feel, of locking up emotions from certain people so that we don't have to talk about it, so what if his parents don't know or what if they do and there is nothing else they can do for him, what if they don't want to do anything for him? What if he gets like this again and falls down and no one stops to help him? What then?

When he was talking to me he kept repeating things and forgetting things we had just spoke about and I think at times he saw things that weren't there. Tomorrow he might wake up and never remember meeting me, tomorrow he might wake up and do exactly the same again. Just like so many other people will.

This scares me more than any other though that has been crowding my mind the last few weeks.

I am glad I turned down those extra hours, and I am glad I decided to walk. I am glad I stayed over ten minutes to help out a bit longer and I am glad I stopped and talked to the boy in the gutter, because not many other people would have.

I am scared what tomorrow might bring that boy, and I am scared that I will never know how it turns out, I am scared that this goes on so close to home and people ignore it and I am scared that I do not known when my job as the helpful stranger is over, because quite honestly I would love to go to his house tomorrow and check up on him. But that is not my responsibility.

I want him to be OK. I want tonight to be the last time he does that, I want to believe that he will be alright, that someone at home is looking after him.

I want more people to stop and help the stranger in the gutter.


Haggis said...

There are genuinely nice people in this world. I've always believed that you are one of them.

Time and time again you prove me right.

Andy said...

Awh thats nice... and quite an eventful evening I see!

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