One Dead, One Alive: A Reflection On Where We Are At as a Global Society

There are two regulars that stand out for me at a place I used to work.

Well one stood out, he’s now dead.

His name was George and he was absolutely lovely. With white hair, a bit of a jowly face, wide open eyes and a giggle jiggling around our conversations he was a day-brightener and a delight to collide with at work. Granted, he was constantly stoned, and made an incredible ‘special’ brownie in case you wanted to know.

One time he excitedly called me to his table, revealing his latest creation: white choc-fudge. Decadent, delicious and the most effective painkiller for his condition.

Now I don’t recall if it was cancer, though I believe it was, that made it impossible for him to go out of a certain radius from the hospital. I’m never sure because our conversations never stayed on what was happening to him all that much. All I remember now was that jiggling, giggly face, white hair, big eyes and upbeat conversation.

He died after a surgery with a 50/50 chance of survival. He felt those odds were pretty good.

After his death, I saw another regular who I felt wasn’t a bad guy, also suffering from a chronic condition, but I tended to avoid conversation with him. Now, I couldn’t remember why. So being on this whole open-heart/open-mind kick, I thought I’d wander over and see if maaaybe I’d just been a bit judgmental.

On asking how he was, he precipitated into an issue with his dialysis machine, and how annoying it was that it was beeping all night, that he needed to get a new one, that they found one for him, me exclaiming how great they found one so fast, and him launching into why this wasn’t good…. This is when I decided to pull myself out of the negativity vortex by feigning a customer-needed attention and scuttled away.

Whilst eating delicious French toast on a leisurely Sunday, this gentleman was expending a whole lot of woe-is-me to see out the weekend. I missed George.

Today, I found myself lying on some green grass: half in sun, half in shade. I was projecting onto a cloudless blue sky my uncertainty around launching into a new career — one that did not guarantee money or social acceptance — from my current state of indebtedness and joblessness. Whilst contemplating my well-curated presentation of seemingly excruciating life decisions on this heavenly screen, a bright red helicopter flew disruptively through my reverie. It immediately brought to mind the fires raging all over the world, and the crazy path we as a global society were going down.

And I thought fuck it. I’m not going to be the one in my pretty pink dress, fussing with my hair before walking into the horror house. I’m going to be Lara-Croft-style final-checking through my arsenal of social impact weaponry and steeling my mind for the shit-show to come.

I may not have a job, or money, but I’ve got a reason to be here.

RIP George.

by Tessa Hawkins