Proximity

A tragedy occurs, it’s on the news, no-one you know was involved. You look around you as people commiserate one another over the dead they didn’t know existed before today.

You watch them as they proclaim anathemas on the perpetrators, as they wring their hands about the “social issues” that led to this “terrible event”.

You think they are faking, they must be faking, they put money in a collection box for survivors they have no connection to, they shake their heads, the mood in the office is subdued, conversation steers itself toward the inevitable “isn’t it awful”.

You’re at home, holding your lover, watching the news after the watershed, images of a little girl whose face has been smashed in flash across the screen. You catch in your lover’s eye the glisten of a tear, genuine sadness and regret. “What is wrong with humanity” they say “why do we do this to one another?”

Blank emptiness fills you. You do not understand. How do they care for this girl they never knew? Mere pixels on a screen as far as your experience is concerned. You think of the grieving mother and father and recognise the suffering it must cause them. You recognise it is wrong but you cannot feel sorry, no tears find themselves in your eyes. No anger at mankind for it’s hatred and violence. “There must be something wrong with me” you think.

Turn to your lover though, anguish and love flow through your heart like an open faucet. You touch your lover’s head and wipe their tears, awed by their compassion you find it, a single tear of your own. A moment of care by proxy.

Then the words return, and with them the emptiness.

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