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The Traffic Light

by Erin Dijkema  
5/16/2011 / Short Stories

The corner of the street was covered with workers eager to get home from their 9-5 jobs but were temporarily stalled waiting for the walk sign to appear on the traffic light. Everyone was looking east, focused on that one light specified for pedestrians, as if power from each person's eyes was added to the multitude to affect the interval of time it was mechanically told to change. The rush of the cars was heard, where the rhythm of the four lanes could be discovered if enough effort was put into it, the wind of the speed of the cars occasionally interrupted by the clunk of the sewer cover and the honk of the impatient driver, maybe a squeal of a tire or two. The birds added a constant soprano, singing their annoyance or joy at the day; reminding the city that this block of land is theirs too. But even though all this was heard, the individual was focused on that one light, too much so to notice the diversity and uniqueness of this day; encompassed not only by the rhythm of the cars but by the melody of the voices speaking in languages dismissed by the usual city dweller, and the percussion of the traveling feet keeping everything in beat. Everyone already forming their individual space, their bubble made to recover from work, which no one else was allowed to enter without piercing the inner wall and poking the solitary and easily invoked but calm unsociable animal inside. All these people are on the mission to complete the next task, focusing wholeheartedly on that one thing, allowing other thoughts pertaining to their own life to swim around and perhaps maybe finally come to a conclusion to their eternity of problems. Maybe a thought provoked on this particular trip will be the one to at least solve one of the problems haunting one of these faceless fellow travelers. One person, a man, stops and glances for an instant at something that catches his eye, a voice had called out him seconds before, but only now did he have the patience to look. He saw another person, much like himself, sitting on the corner of the building with a brown, torn leather hat in his lap, staring back at him. They meet with their eyes, and the man walking moves on. The walking sign has permitted access to the street again.

The man continuing on his way wonders, forgetting what he had been thinking about before, about this man, who has had no choice but to resort to begging on the street. He had heard much about these characters, most have had alcoholic or drug problems or still do and have little if any family connections willing to put up with them. He has heard of the many possibilities a man like that has had chosen to do with the money he receives, making some people wary of giving any one looking for money any extra cash, for their own good of course. Sadly, he pities the man on the street, sitting there at the same spot everyday, barely noticed by the regular passerby, ignored by those who know he is there, dismissing his lifestyle as useless to society and detrimental. He wonders, if he does indeed have some kind of family nearby he can converse with and form memories. What does he do, during the nights, during the winter and during the rainy storms all alone with nothing to entertain him and keep him warm? The man walking to his home surely knows that the accommodations available at the shelter are much worse than that are present at his home he is traveling to at the present. He explores further as to what he would do without his television, his snack food, his suppers prepared by his lovely wife, his warm comfortable bed chosen specifically for his sleep patterns and back support, his automatic coffee maker and the presence of his family. Suddenly the problems of earlier today vanish for just a bit, seemingly minuscule to the issues obviously evident in this man's life who has succumbed to poverty and social isolation. But soon enough once again, the encroaching fears return, bidding for a drink or two to appease them.

The man sitting in the corner of the building wonders about this man, this man that had passed by him many times before but only now has finally just recognized him by simply looking into his eyes, perhaps by accident. Immediately assuming he has a huge house and comfortable lifestyle, the man becomes uncomfortable sitting on the ground for such a long time begins to stand up once the crowd has left and the darkness becomes threatening. This man that passed him, a business man of some sort he must be, with the brief case and the fancy suit rushing off to meet with his family. But it will only be for a very short time before night rituals begin and he has to prepare for the next day. Oh what a life that was, the man recalls regretfully, working all day staring at photos of your family, only to share with them the short time in front of the television and the rushed and difficult time of getting the kids to bed and late night work before heading to bed, forgetting again in the moment the love for his wife. This would of course be either because of the strenuous worry about work and finances, among other things or because of the strength of his desire to just sleep. He remembers the lack of quality time spent with his family, taken for granted everyday with the convenience of a television and video games, he wishes he would have taken more time and effort to actually try to show his deep love for his wife and kids when he had a chance. Just the thought deeply saddens him, depressing life it is, the rush to appease something out there that can never be appeased enough, threatening time and time again to leave and take all its advantages with it. It is a life full of emptiness and fear when it is not controlled by correctly-directed love, which he unfortunately had not foreseen, being too busy trying unsuccessfully to show his deep love expressed by material things. No, he didn't have such a high position as this other particular man seemed to have, but it still kept him occupied excessively enough to ignore the golden opportunities. He hopes this man does not have the same life as he, although he admits to himself sadly that that would be very high hopes for anyone in this building, who takes working competitively or even at the pace set by society seriously. At least it is reasonable to know he might not come to the same end as he. He continues back home looking forward to another night with his group of friends, who have befriended him and taught him so much, either through unfortunate example or by late night stories, he wished he had known before.

Written by Erin Dijkema. A recent graduate from Redeemer University College, I have lived most of my life in a small town called Athens,ON. A church participant all my life, I have just recently was blessed to be baptized in His Church.
Email: [email protected]

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