My wife and I were spending quality time together at one thirty in the morning in front of the warm glow of the TV screen, when we heard the distinct sound of a loud argument happening somewhere near our house. Overwhelmed with curiosity, I turned off the lights and we each looked through the blinds in the attempt to see a fight in full swing. We saw nothing, which only made my curiosity grow more. Hitting on the great idea of going out the front door on the precedence of letting the dog relieve himself on the lawn while I would eavesdrop on the fight, I exited the house and stood in the lawn, hands in pockets and jaw agape as I listened.
Across our street is a bus stop, and parked on the bench of this bus stop was a man. He lounged back in the bench, feet propped on his shopping cart stolen from a nearby grocery store, and he began yelling at God.
“Shut the fuck up, you fucking ignorant fuck!” I heard him yell, I laughed to myself in my fear, for the way his voice cantered to a higher pitch on the final “fuck” was very amusing. “Fuck you, God!” he continued, “You can’t let a poor man alone! I paid my dues! Get the fuck off of me, you Goddamn mother fucker you!” My wife became fearful and I hurried the dog inside mid-squat.
Without hesitation, I reached for the phone and called the police. I was not really afraid of the man harming me or my family, but felt it was the right thing to do for many reasons. First, the man clearly needed help. Second, he was cursing a storm, and there were children living in the house he was directly in front of. Finally, I knew I was not going to go over there and help him, so I might as well enlist the help of a man with a gun.
After hanging up with the police, my wife and I spent the next ten minutes listening to the man’s conversation with himself. His repertoire of curse words and his uncanny ability to tag the word “fuck” to any word, noun, verb or otherwise, made me chuckle with innocent merriment. My wife was not so amused, and asked me if I was finding pleasure in the situation. I said I wasn’t, that I was only interested in the well-being of the man, but was I really?
I think back to a time when a friend and I had a conversation about determinism versus sociobiology over a couple of beers at Sherlock’s, for this is the kind of bullshit us pseudointellectuals talk of after work. He was harkening on the fatalistic qualities of determinism, how we are all to do the things we do because unseen and unfelt forces beyond our control affect our lives in such ways that we are determined to do them from the outset. I argued of the altruistic properties of sociobiology, which is almost engraved in the very DNA of all animals. I lost the debate, no doubt due to my own lack of the knowledge of sociobiology, a term that I picked up that very day, and the deterministic nature of life.
Much like I lost the debate, I lost the debate with myself over the homeless man across the street. I wanted to believe that I was a philanthropic man with my heart set on helping my fellow man, but I was more determined to watch as an old man with brain defects cursed aloud his inner torment while I sat by and watched and laughed.
The cops came moments later, and the sociobiology part of me awoke, hoping for a chance at redemption. I hoped the man would be taken to some kindly hospital, revived, cared for, given proper medication and nursed back to health, but these hopes were soon dashed on the rocks of reality when the cop simply told the homeless man to move along.
“Move where?” my wife asked aloud to me, and it seemed to be anywhere but across our street. The old man stood and walked down the street, cursing all the way. No doubt he would wander to the next bus stop, sit and the cycle would start all over again. For him, humanity’s lack of altruism, or perhaps its ignorance of sociobiology, has helped to doom his life to its determined cycle.
The next day, it rained hard all day long, and my thoughts extended to him, though I am determined to be incapable of doing anything.