To the man with the plastic bag on the bus

I see you.

On a bus full of people trying their hardest to look away, I see you.

You have the same bag I’ve seen in the hands of released inmates from county jails, ex-patients coming out of long-term rehab or mental health commitment, and the homeless men and women I’ve seen wander a thousand streets. That clear plastic bag that holds everything you own, but not nearly enough of what you need. Some clothes. A bus pass. A comb and toothbrush. A single mug. Maybe some medication.

What I saw first was your boombox, complete with every kind of input and medium that I could have imagined existed post-cassette. MP3/CD/SD card/USB, and of course an extension cord to go with it.

I saw that boombox, which had to weigh a ton, and couldn’t help but feel the lightness of the iPhone in my pocket. Every single person looking at the two of us sharing a four-seat spot would have thought we were completely different. That there was no way that this disheveled man in second-hand clothes with all of his possessions in a shitty plastic bag could in any way relate to the button-down shirt and expensive leather booted man across from him.

Fuck, I wish they could have been wrong.

I know what you are going through. I had enough clients meet me with the same bags.

I know that there were times in my life I should have been in your place. Moments that I escaped hospitalisation because I had the privilege of wealth and education. Times where the only difference between staying at home and sleeping in a psych ward was that I had people who cared enough to make sure I got help. I dodged inpatient mental care not because I didn’t need it, but because I had the few things bridging the gaps that stopped me from slipping through the cracks into a dark and scary place.

Once you go, you can never answer the mental health safety questions at the doctor/interview/date differently.

So, man with the plastic bag on the bus, I see you.

I see more than your bag, I see past the walls you put up, I see past the darkness and through the fog that every other person created in an attempt to isolate you from the rest of the world.

I see your shirt, it says that we have to be happy.

I don’t see you smile, but I hope you do one day.

I see you my friend,

I see you.

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