What Do You Care About Too Much?
It’s a question on OkCupid. Yes, I have been known to trawl my way through online dating sites. Women have told me that they have any number of weird experiences on them. So have I, but I have met one friend on Tindr. And had more than one strange experience. Maybe it’s a weird friendship, but I’m OK with that. And I’m not going to write about Angie tonight.
So what do I care about too much? Probably a lot of things. Certainly all things political. Since the 2016 election I have spent so much of my time protesting all aspects of the Trump regime. Before the election I followed politics, together with my wife, pretty much as a spectator sport. Subscribing to the New York TImes, back in the day we would laze on a Sunday morning in bed passing around the supplements. Conversation over chardonnay in our Park Slope living room.
And yes, since the election part in anger at Don the Con, part in fear for my children’s future, I care too much about politics. My spare time is consumed with planning demonstrations and endlessly following the Mueller investigation. HuffPo, New York Times, the Guardian, BBC, and the biggest brain suck of all, Facebook. I have somehow dodged the bullet of Twitter.
But it goes deeper than that. One of my ex-wife’s complaints was that I cared for strangers more than her. I don’t know the truth of that, but looking back I can see how it might have at least elements of truth. But the memory that comes first to mind is of Mandy. Mandy was a lesbian friend who had decided to have a child. Having no family in Brooklyn to support her, she was at a loss for all the practical preparations for having a newborn in her life. Since we had not long before been through that, I helped her with some of the preparations – where to get a stroller, a crib. I think I even one time dug her car out from the snow.
Which was clearly caring too much. In the couple’s counseling before our divorce, digging Mandy’s car out from the snow was too much. Yes, I cared too much. For someone else.
But the criticism strikes deeper than green eyes. I have a great need to be a hero. I am not sure where that comes from, but part of me suspects that I learnt it reading life saving manuals on my mother’s bedroom floor. My brother drowned when he was six, and she had tried to revive him, though he had been dead for hours. Taking lifesaving classes was no doubt her way to purge herself. And I learned that a determined and skilled citizen rescuer could save lives, together with diagrams and checklists – “Row, Throw, Go!”, “Airway, Breathing, Circulation”.
At nineteen I learned one of the lessons of the Lord of the Rings. When the hobbits return to the Shire, it is Merry and Pippin who are accounted heros. Frodo is left to one side, shocked by his experiences. My experience was a near accident in the Golan, for twenty seconds I was a hero. But not afterwards, my reward was the calming drags of a Silon cigarette as we recovered our composure from nearly being shot.
Many years later I was working in Chelsea in New York. It was April 2002, a few months after 9/11. I had a privileged window cubicle, and we had settled down from the banter of the start of day to start working at our computers.
With no warning, the air shocked through my lungs as though I had swallowed the speakers at a rock concert. Glass from the window showered around me like glittering jewels. I remember feeling relief that I could hear things falling, the explosion had not been so near to the explosion that I had been deafened.
Josh ran to the window to look out. I thought him a fool as I crawled away through the glass, fearful of secondary explosions.
The fire alarms rang. Everyone lined up at the designated exits, completely jammed up now that the time had come to put into practice the frequent fire drills. My desk was at the back of the building, and the evacuation would be to the front, on an unaffected street. It would take time, but everyone would be safe.
I followed our security guard, a moon-lighting NYPD sergeant, back to my desk and further. Some of the evacuation routes for the building lead down an open stairwell to the affected street, and into danger. We made for the stairwell, and started to redirect evacuees coming down this external stairwell back into the building to the safe main entrance.
We looked at each other, I knew his duty lay below. I said “I got this, you go!”, and he raced to the scene of the disaster. I held my chosen post, ducking below the concrete balcony for cover from the secondary explosions I still feared, as I directed people away from danger and into the safety of the traffic jam at the exit.
Eventually the traffic ceased. I decided that I could do more good at the scene of the explosion, using my Red Cross first aid skills. I went down the stairwell, leading out onto our loading dock.
The loading dock was opposite the actual explosion. It was lined with survivors of the explosion. I quickly assessed them as having very light injuries, and the EMS had their gurneys out near the actual explosion site.
Around then a friend was home watching the action on CNN. She called my wife at work, “don’t worry, Wrolf is OK. There was an explosion in Chelsea, I can recognize him from the CNN helicopter by the bald spot!” My wife apparently replied “I suppose he is helping out?”. She confirmed that I was.
She took newspaper clippings the next day, of me carrying a victim to an ambulance. Back then she loved me.
The security guard insisted that I was a hero, and insisted that the head of the department congratulate me. Which he did in a strange way, taking me aside privately and saying the most perfunctory of thanks. I did not begrudge him his much recounted leadership dealing with the traffic jam at the main entrance. I knew that for him this was his brush with glory.
Later, I was fired from that job.
But I still care. I keep up my Red Cross certification and bleeding heart. When a woman collapsed vomiting at a vigil, I was there. A woman in distress late at night on the subway. A first date who collapsed in tears, stilll not over her prior relationship. I am always the responsible one.
As I wrote this last line, I had.a flashing insight. As the older brother, I was always the responsible one. It is who I am.