We fear more than we love. We shrieked and we run away from what disgust us. There is nothing wrong with that. Disgust is a natural and reflex action. It keeps us on our toes. It keeps us sane.
On the train ride home yesterday, I was oblivious to my surrounding. Given that it was the last train and the clock was going to strike twelve soon, I was drop dead tired. I was never a night person. Even when I was a kid, I would pester my parents at eight in the evening just to bring me home so that I could have a good night rest whenever we were out. Things have not changed much. I still wanted to go home, fast.
In order to pass time, I randomly watched YouTube videos so that my eyes would not fail me and make me miss my stop at Clementi.
As surreal as it was, I suddenly felt everyone in the cabin retreating away from me. I was surprised. Clearly, I hadn’t shit in my pants nor was my body odour that bad that everyone had to create a demilitarized zone around me. I looked around me. I looked below me. A pool of yellow half-digested noodles swimming in acidic fluids. Someone had vomited.
I was affected. Whoever this person was, he had vomited at me, at my feet. I was disgusted. My body was tingling and feeling all dirty, as if I had been brutally gang raped and my sense of self, exposed and naked to the public.
I looked towards this drunk Indian national. I stared at him. He was trembling, hard. He was sweating and he had vomit residues all over his face and body. By now, everyone in the cabin was practically in a safe distance, away from this threat. I was the only foolish victim still within his perimeter.
Call it my ‘little man’ or that sixth sense in me, but I felt wrong. No, I cannot be like ‘them’ and retreat. No, I cannot. The more I looked at him, the more my disgust turned to empathy. He wasn’t drunk. He was afraid, embarrassed. Who wouldn’t be? He had made a fool of himself, in a foreign land. Unanswered questions of “What the hell happened” and “What am I going to do” were written all over his stressed black face. No, he wasn’t drunk. He was sick. I looked closer at the vomit. Fresh instant Maggi noodles, not fully digested still. Probably his dinner, or the only meal he had ate for the day. This guy was in a mess.
My hands reached into my bag and I took out a bottle of water and offered to him. He was hesitant. I gestured towards him to drink up. He slowly brought his hands out towards mine, took the bottle and drank. No words, no Thank You’s, no smiles. There wasn’t a need for one anyway. I gave him a thumbs up, a gesture to see if he was alright. He nodded slightly. That was all I needed.
I alighted at the next station, Clementi. I do not know what happens next. Probably ‘they’ will snap photos of this foreigner and rant about it behind their monitors and keyboards. Perhaps a kind soul would check on him and offer medical help. Probably. Perhaps. I don’t know.
All I know was that when I left the station, I felt a sense of regret coming over me. If only I had brought along a pack of tissue or a face towel so that I could have offered to him to clean himself up. He really needed one.