Jonah turned around and walked out of the bar. He looked out at the city: his home. If this was his home, what did that make the man he had just seen, to him? What was the fellowship that existed between two people in the same home? It had to be fellowship of some kind. Hadn’t he been that man---a thousand times?
He knew then was was so awful in his visions, what gave them their power to terrify, to torment---to make his life seem so peculiarly hollow all of a sudden: They were true. That fragility he had seen the mortality, the vulnerability---they were everywhere. It was no great revelation that everyone was naked beneath their clothes, that the city and everyone in it would someday crumble into dust---except that it was.
He should have helped that man, he thought. If they were alike in---he should have done---
He clenched his teeth, squeezed his fists until his fingernails dug into the skin of his palms---willing this train of thought to come to an end. No, he thought. No, no, no. He was not the kind of person who spontaneously offered to help strangers with their bags. He was not the kind of person who reacted to an “uhh” with anything other than gratitude that he had not been the one who’d made it.
He saw that he was losing---was being robbed of---an essential capacity: the capacity to ignore. It turned out that you had to ignore certain things---a lot of certain things, in fact---just to be able to walk into a bar and get drunk, to say nothing of working 17,500 hours in a law firm. You had to ignore, for one, that you were surrounded at all times by fellow human beings whose lives had the same despairs, both minor and great, the same final brevity as yours, as anyone’s. When you lost the anonymity of others---when you could no longer automatically filter out the peopleness of other people---then you couldn’t function here. You had to place here. Jonah felt as if he had spent years, maybe his whole life, able to abide---to thrive!---on the finest surface of things, and having been plunged momentarily beneath this surface, he could no longer find it.
And that, he thought, was wrong.
Jonah got angry again---not in the manner of the temper tantrum he’d had in the storeroom; this was a deeper, a self-sustaining, indignant anger. Walking to a bar at any hour of the day to get drunk was the right of every New Yorker. Why was he denied it? Why couldn’t he live his life however he wanted---with as much callous disregard for his fellow human beings as he wished?
---from The Book of Jonah by Joshua Max Feldman.