Tuesday, 18 November 2008

965 - Railroading

"Once I built a railroad, I made it run. Made it race against time. Once I built a railroad, now it's done. Brother, can you spare a dime?"

Whitley Bay, Park View, 8.00pm last night, I'd left the house. I don't bring money in, with what I try to do. E does that. I placed my wallet on the sidetable as I passed her, on the phone, on the way out. Rain-flecked, icy sky. Needed to let it burst in my head, to happy-slap me out of a sallow mood. Why does no-one pay me when I follow my vocation? Why must I vocate and work for cash at the same time?

I was near The Celtic Path. A man passed, drunk, shaven-headed, tough. Small smile to disarm him. He sussed me out.

"You got twenty p for a telephone call?"
"I've got no money, no wallet. Left it at home - "
"You got twenty p?"
Shrug. "No wallet -"
"You got twenty p?"
Shrugging; backing and turning. Still -
"You got twenty p?" he asks.

Happy-slap. I brought fifteen quid into the house last year. But I'm not poor the way he is. My desperation is a luxury. The meeting leaves me quiet.

Did it quieten him? Not in a way I could see. His desperation had set him on a railroad: forward, forward for money that simply wasn't there. And it reminds me of the song: the shock of deprivation after a lifetime of graft.

"Brother, can you spare a dime?" - But no words with which to conceive of your need, no manners with which to articulate them, save those that have helped build the railroad system, the finance on which you depend, in the first place. Probably words given to you by that very system.

They say you need a quiet hope to get through life. Hope is what is left when the words are taken away. But you have to have the words taken away to see it.

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