12 April. -- Received a distressing visit this morning, from a man in his forties, poor, shy, and in fairly bad physical condition. He was an ailing worker, married and the father of three children, who wanted to sell me part of his life ration tickets so that he could feed his family. His wife was ill, and he himself too weakened by deprivation to keep up a physically demanding job; his allocation just barely permitted him to maintain his family in a state closer to death than to life. His proposition to sell me his life ration tickets filled me with embarrassment. I felt like an ogre of legend, one of those monsters in old fairy tales who collected a tribute of human flesh. I mumbled some protest and, refusing my visitor's tickets, I offered him a certain sum of money without compensation. He was conscious of the magnitude of his sacrifice, and he took a legitimate pride in it, so he didn't want to accept anything that he hadn't paid for with one or several days of his existence. In the end, since I couldn't get him to change his mind, I wound up taking one ticket from him. After he left, I shoved it in the bottom of my drawer, firmly decided not to use it. Since it was deducted in this fashion from the existence of a fellow man, this supplemental day would be odious to me.
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|Copyright 1997 Karen Reshkin|