It took me a while to write this. I might have blocked it from my mind. Might have needed time to process what I saw. I didn't know what to do or what I could do about it.
Let me tell you about an old man along the East Avenue-Edsa Intersection.
I see him everyday, while on my way to the MRT station. He's there early, laying out his goods on a dilapidated wooden box. I've noticed that he sells random stuff, tweezers, hard candies, cigarettes, and those little hair ties that look like telephone cords. He's usually not the one I notice, since there's this lady vendor who's always surrounded by these cute, chubby cats that sleep by her side. Day after day.
But last Saturday. I saw the old man. Really saw the old man. He had just bought a packet of fried peanuts from a fellow street vendor. He was walking back to his spot, to his box, when his packet of nuts fell from his shaky hands. The salt, the bits of garlic, and the brown nuts scattered on the ground, ground that had been treaded on by the busy bees of the Filipino work force.
The old man bent down, hurriedly picking up every last piece that fell from his brown paper bag of peanuts. He hastened to put every salvageable bit into his mouth.
And wow, look at me, I had no idea what to do. Was I to help him pick up the sullied food and go my way? Was I to give him money? But what if he got insulted, since, technically, he wasn't a beggar, but a vendor? I thought of looking for the place where he bought those peanuts and getting him a new packet, but I was too caught up in thinking "What should I do?" until it came to the point that I chickened out.
I was scared of helping the old man. And now it's haunting me. Because I remember what happened, but I've forgotten what the old man looks like. And I'm scared that if I remember, I wouldn't know what to do again, because helping just one man doesn't change the fact that there are all those other vendors on that sidewalk. And I will see them every morning. I will see them when I go home.
And there is nothing I can do for them.
I will probably keep living this make-believe life, thinking things will turn out for the better. But it won't.
Not when it's just my life getting better.