the things they carried

Wherein we're all walking variations of the same path, although some more stylishly than others.

* * * * *
Downtown the other night, and it was richly littered with homeless people. Unexpected -- it had getting colder all day, and filled with more dust, and every so many blocks I found myself trying to turn my head away from some kind of industrial stink, something like diesel only I imagined it in thick red and leaking, the air you could feel getting colder and drier, and I imagined, too, that even the homeless would be seeking shelter. But there they were, manning all their stations, and two of their number were especially interesting.

The first guy I'd seen before. In fact, the first time I saw him, he didn't seem homeless at all. Quite a good looking guy, actually. Youngish. But that first time he'd been smoking a little too determinedly, and then there was the muttering, and the pacing in little circles. This night he had an eyepatch in fluorescent silver. He'd ask people passing by for money and then say, Sorry. He asked me and I waved him away -- I only give to the Salvation Army and the old guys in front of the liquor store (and then only the ones who don't make up stories about bus fare). He said, Sorry.

The second guy I'd seen before, too. I'd already nicknamed him: Jesus. He looked a lot more like Jesus that first time I saw him in the park: all thinness and hair and half-nakedness, all that blank, peaceful sauntering around. But I'd seen him several times since, and on every occasion his circumstances seemed to be improving. One day I saw him looking like a tourist, in a new Hawaiian shirt, sitting on a bench with a coffee, cigarette, and newspaper. Watching traffic. On this night he was almost fashionable, with aviator sunglasses and a ski jacket and pants pulled up and tied around the knee with nylon rope, so that they looked like pumpkin pants. Christ, Jesus, I thought, you could have been a runway conquistadore.

None of the other homeless guys were that interesting.

Comments

  1. If you are interested in "interesting" homeless people, I would suggest that you and your family visit St. Petersburg, FL sometime. It's weird that there are much more homeless people there than here in Miami..or at least visible.

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  2. God it must be miserable to be homeless at this time of year, in this hemisphere at least. Not that I think it's marvellous in the summer, just that it must be so much worse when it's cold, even if you look like Jesus and have ski clothes.

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  3. that is interesting.

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