Downtown this morning, a couple hours before sunrise, before the bulk of white collar commuters are even out of bed, I walked from my bus stop to my building as usual. On a recessed bench along the sidewalk, an old white man cleared his throat with effort. It was under thirty degrees and he had a lot stuck in his throat and lungs. It didn’t seem so much like he was waking up as just giving up on trying to sleep.
He seemed neat, collected, trying to take care of his person and his belongings. There was an old-school green hard shell suitcase sitting upright next to him like a nightstand. A little radio sat on top of it, with a small red light glowing in the dark. A woman newscaster’s voice cut through the man’s hacking. She said the buses were standing idle, the evacuation wasn’t underway, the shelling was beginning again.
Aleppo is the center of the world this week, and we are failing it. That little radio in the dark set up worlds within worlds where we take turns falling to our knees in gratitude for what we have. The old man is cold and alone on a bench but he isn’t being shelled, and he isn’t trying to keep small children alive. I’m scared for our future under an anti-science authoritarian, but I’m not an old man alone on a bench in the cold. The woman’s voice on the radio was the thread, tying us all together across the world, like a bird, a civilized bird, starting to sing before dawn.