Where there's a Willesden there's a way

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Suitcases and questions

Brother's out tonight, so the evening's mine to not watch TV, make some coffee and sit back in my own world for a whole evening. And hopefully make some sense of what's been going on lately.

On Sunday I was on my way to Angella's party (should be pronounced AnGEL-a) and had to change at Harrow and Wealdstone. As I waited for the doors to open, I noticed a guy on the platform, who didn't look that much older than me, but had long black hair and a long black beard with a battered green jacket. He was dragging a large old suitcase and a grey kitbag, and I stood to one side to not get in his way. I thought I hadn't left him enough space, as he shouted 'Can I get on this train?', and although I'd started to walk off, I looked back and he shouted 'Can someone please HELP ME?'. The next ten seconds happened very quickly, as I ran over to block the doors to stop them closing, and grabbed his big suitcase to bring it onto the train. It was totally empty, and he was still struggling with the bag so I went over to help.
"Cheers mate."
"That's alright, let's give this a yank shall we?"
I tugged the bag and pulled that onto the train too, and I don't know if he thought I was judging him, but he said
"I'm a doctor you know"
I didn't say anything, but put the bag down for him and asked him if it was alright.
"Yeah, I'm alright mate, thanks for all your help."
I'd looked up to look him in the eye as I shook his hand, and said 'that's alright mate' but my eye was drawn by the nasty looking cut above his eye. The doors began to close, and I jumped off after telling him to take care.

On a superficial level it was a fairly ordinary incident- people have helped me loads of times when I've had an armful of bags, but given time to reflect it was an incident that raised so many questions- why the empty suitcase? what happened to his head? what was his story? Why did everyone else ignore him? Why did he suddenly say he was a doctor?

On a deeper level too, do incidents like that happen because of chance, or is there some plan behind it. If you believe everything happens for a reason, then why did that happen? Is it, as I'm often told, that we're being tested from above to see if we'll help, and if so, what would have been different if I'd ignored him. What about the times someone's asked me for money, or the time or some other help and I haven't helped? Did I fail some kind of test that time, and would life be different had I passed them?

Taking the determinist thinking further, what if each and every day of our lives is an allegory, full of hidden symbolism and tests. Like one of those highly allegorical stories where the meaning slowly creeps up on you months after you've read it. Except life can't be lived like that- you only get so long for reflection and no chance to run through that again to see if you missed anything, otherwise there's no way you can actually live to begin with. But it raises the question, what did I miss?

And every so often you get the feeling it could be a biggie. But the best opportunities in life don't tend to advertise themselves, and if they did we wouldn't appreciate them as much. But sometimes there isn't a cut and dried explanation, only a handful of theories and a mess of contradictions. And again, that creeping feeling you missed something, or failed somehow.

But it pays not to overthink these things. Just as you can never leave your heart behind, so too do the vital parts of your life return. You just have to concentrate on living it.


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