• Caren

letter to obama

5/3/12

A gallery visitor met me at the door this morning as I was locking up to drop stuff off in the office. He said, "I have to talk to you, Caren. I have a really big favor to ask from you. I don't know if you can do it. But I need to ask you a favor. How long you gonna be? I'll wait for you here." When I got back, he told me his legal troubles with being bi-polar and living in a senior community and being harassed by his landlady and going to court with an "excuse my French--racist white judge" and not being able to find legal counsel, then he asked if I would help him write a letter to Obama because he's no good with "margins and changing the font and that kind of thing," and “some crazy stuff is happening and somebody is giving me some—excuse my French--BS.” I said no. And sorry. "Oh," he said, but not in surprise. "I didn't know if you would."

This guy is only a tiny bit sketchy, mostly just friendly and looking for a chat, which is why I think he comes by a few times a week--to chat about movies and the next event at the gallery and whether or not there'll be food or a DJ. I don't think he likes it when there's a DJ, but he loves the food. At the last reception I should have sneaked him a bowl or something because of the embarrassing way he kept refilling the teensy cocktail plate.

When he visits, he calls me buddy. "Heya, buddy, what's going on? You going to the movies tomorrow? ‘The Avengers’ is coming out!" "Well, you look kinda busy. Don't let me hold you." "You're always typing away. They keep you busy here, huh?" "I just wanted to come and chat and see how you were doing." “Why you typing away all the time?” “Have you seen The Hunger Games?” "When's the next event again? What time is it at? Will there be a nice spread like last time? That was a, [low whistle], a very nice spread last time." “Well I don’t wanna keep you. I’m talkative and I don’t wanna disturb you.”

I've been less genuinely friendly in return, a little less friendly each time he's come back.

He's has been consistently nice, and odd. "I'm bipolar. Did I say already that I'm bipolar?" So if one pole is friendly, what’s the other pole? If I don’t help you write your letter to Obama, and nobody else helps you either, will you switch over to the other pole? I hope not. I don’t want to see him go to the other pole. The other pole is like the dark side of the moon. (Isn’t that how bipolarity works?)

He’s gotta have a nephew or brother or somebody else who can help him. Why doesn’t he go to a church or a Salvation Army or some other place where it’s their job to do nice things? Why is he going into art galleries to ask the girl at the front desk to be his secretary? Why do I feel that my opportunities to do nice things for people are tied up in trusting that strange bipolar men won’t decide that I am the next person to follow and murder in the car park? I need more excuses to say no. Like, if I were a guy, I could be a better person. A big, burly guy. I could help anybody I wanted and not be afraid that the helpee would decide to add me to his specimen collection. Because then I’d kick his A with my meatball fists. Kickpuncher.

But is there ever an excuse for not helping? Especially when it’s so little, so easy, so not-a-big-deal? What is help, if there is no personal risk? And really, what’s the worst that could happen? The absolute worst? Probably that I’d turn him away and he’d continue to be screwed over by some excuse-my-French judge. And the world would go on and on.