It had been another long week, another week when Jon had spent his time dealing with the suffering and grief of his traumatised clients with a professionalism that was beginning to trouble him. Something had come between him and them of late – a barrier that allowed their stories, entreaties and breakdowns to leave him unmoved, or so it seemed to him. It felt as if he was a robot that was exquisitely fine-tuned to deliver suitable responses to people in distress. His supervisor said it would happen as an inevitable response to the intensity of the emotions he was exposed to on a daily basis. Perhaps the tragedy inherent in the human condition was too much to bear. It would kill you if you didn’t find a way to control your exposure to it. Maybe this is why so many poets kill themselves. They seem to be unbearably alive to this tragedy in all its intensity.
As he turned the corner onto the high street that led him home, he was surprised by how deserted it was, even for a Sunday afternoon. It was quite a rundown area and there weren’t many shops open. Then across the street he caught sight of a man walking alone. He was quite an overweight man probably in his late fifties, dressed in jeans, trainers and a Nike sweatshirt. He was eating ice cream out of a tub as he walked. Something about the way he expectantly lifted the ice cream-topped plastic spoon to his mouth momentarily transformed him into a mischievous five-year old boy. Jon pulled the car over and started weeping quietly. In those rare moments when the beauty and fragility of existence pierced his barrier and threatened to overwhelm him, Jon felt more authentic, more human than he could ever feel in the therapy groups he ran.