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"Ay! You got time for human rights?!"
"Want to help save the world?!"
"Hey you got a second to give a shit about anyone other than yourself?!" pause.. "Ah shit, did I say that out loud?"
Hell with it, I thought, damn near no one was listening anyway. We were shouting at yuppie folk, workers on break, and everyone else as they shuffled from street corner to Union Station. Some instantly broke into a sprint as soon as they glimpsed our yellow badges.
It was fucking freezing. But I was there. I was employed by a Human Rights Organization with a swinging yellow badge hanging from my neck. Occasionally, in my jumping around to stay warm, it would flip over revealing a stunning Labrador named "Cash." Apparently someone forgot to make me a badge; someone also forgot to put me in the system completely. Fair enough. I should disappear while I still can, I thought for a moment. While I still have a trace amount of faith in humanity. Ah. Burn it all.
Anyhow, the lovely brute was my co-worker's pet. We were a team of four; the brute owner and future cop, the middle aged punk, the young punk, and me.
We were selling memberships for empathy, memberships for giving a shit and helping those whom you have never met.
Capitalism. You can even sell genuine human emotion; and apparently you have to.
I meant what I was saying to these people. But I was still selling something. And it still felt strange.
Between my pitches for human rights, the American flag was hanging overhead like some cruel joke. The heads of those sneering at the words "human rights" passing underneath. Some went so far as to put their hands in our faces or spew with the utmost distaste, "I got all the time in the world but not for you."
A few paces ahead of me the older punk gentlemen was pacing in circles refusing to give up and hitting everyone to the right side. I stood behind and hit everyone to the left.
The other two were casually chatting a few feet behind and had completely given up.
With each rejection something was sobering, hardening in the pit of my gut. This rock was slowly digesting, sliding into my lower intestine, and soon it would completely work it's way out. And I was afraid.
I was afraid of what I thought it was. Afraid that without it I would become just like them, the ones stuck not giving a damn about anything. The ones with eyes glued to their Iphones. The ones with the shoes that cost enough to save too many lives for me to think about without experiencing nausea. The ones with the important walk. The ones with anywhere else to be other than here, in the present. Or the ones that stop to listen just to cut you down and laugh in your face.
Or I feared I would go completely mad. Although I was fairly certain the madness had a solid grip on my ankles and was sliding its way up my calves. Each time someone said no or responded with an "I'm good" to human rights, I felt myself letting out a darker and darker laugh. It felt different than any other pleasant guffaw. It felt heavy. It fell out like thick sludge.
It was coming from where the stone had once existed. It was coming from the bloodied grooves left behind.
Those who were stopping didn't have any money or were already members.
Those with money hated the looks of us.
I needed that stone where it was. I wasn't ready to give into complete cynicism.
The problem was beginning to feel so massive; so systematic. It is a problem of empathy. There is little to none left in the rotten world.
We were pitching the crisis in Yemen as it is the world's largest humanitarian crisis. But there are others. The whole damned world was starting to feel like a humanitarian crisis.
And the crisis is: there are few humans left.
People talk about the issues. Some I believe genuinely care. Others blatantly do not, others only pretend to so as not to seem like a piece of shit and others still were slowly sliding into complete madness.
They had spent too much time caring, too much time looking into the chaos and into the darkness and now it was leering back.
Suddenly standing in the cold, in the middle of the sidewalk with "Wonderwall" by Oasis blaring in the background, I felt the world was wildly flushing down the toilet and I had gotten both feet stuck in it.
Balancing between clinging to and slowly losing grip of hope all day was wearing. Five o'clock hit and I was sliding into a Lyft and heading towards my second job. The sun swung low between black trees and I felt my head sink against the seat. Something heavy was trying to come out and I was not ready to face whatever it was. I stuffed it back down and tried to dream of sailboats, but they kept sinking.