With Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, waiting for the bus turns into a curious investigation about the narrator’s life, who previously worked in a law firm and never liked his job. I was the only one sitting on the bench. Shortly, a guy came with two big bag of collected bottles. His hair greasy, his hand slightly shaking, his clothes dirty and smelly a bit, and he is stunningly skinny. That’s all I could collect as the tell-tale information about this guy before he starts to talk.
He opened a bottle, drinking avidly. Seconds up, I found myself not really reading Murakami.
“Excuse me ?” He said to me, in the meanwhile, taking tobacco out of his back pocket, trembling.
“Yes?” I answered.
“Sprichst du Deutsch?” (Do you speak German?) As asking, he seems to offer me his tobacco.
I shook my head, hoping not to get involved in the conversation, and certainly I don’t have any lighter.
“Do you speak English? ” He smiled and asked again in a nearly perfect English accent. His voice low and reserved.
“Yes.” I answered.
“Can I smoke here? ” He asked me.
“Yes.” I answered.
He smiled, and said “I just want to know, do you mind if I could smoke here?”
Here? In an open-air bus stop with nobody around? No-one has ever asked me this question before. Or no-one cares about it. Wait a sec. Does he want to start a pick-up conversation by saying that? I thought, waiting for the next question. There was nothing. He started to smoke.
It was pleasant for me to be asked, to be considered. It was a quite gentleman gesture to ask, but on the other hand, I was judging him by his appearance. Perhaps, he is homeless, drunk and not polite. No, he might be none of those.
Getting on the bus, I started to think about a crowdfunding project I backed month ago — Four Feet Under. A crowdfunding book project on Unbound, non-fiction. The author collects stories from homeless people in London, taking photos of them, getting to know them, telling their stories. Haven’t read the whole book yet, but I know that among them, there are business man, orphan, and so on. The title comes from their perspective, meaning that they see the world from “Four Feet Under“. But aren’t we all are, sometimes? We judge people from four feet under? We judge them by brand, clothes, professions, social status? Is “Four Feet Under” their perspective or ours?
It was always my dream to talk to homeless people, regardless where. I knew they all like us, carrying stories, burying pains. But I never have done so. Not sure what’s the reason. It could be a lack of courage, or simply couldn’t careless. Things and thoughts got buried easily by time. The author did what I have always wanted. Hoping to read it soon.
(This post is not sponsored by the crowdfunding project Four Feet Under. Simply some personal thoughts.)