Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Bus stop

As I stand, waiting, underneath a rare burst of wintertime sunshine, a homeless man, draped in an enormous coat, clutching a beer can inconspicuously cloaked in a wrinkled paper bag, hovers beneath the bus shelter beside me.


Nothing out of the ordinary in this city.

He strolls over to a nearby trash can to toss out his paperbag disguise, and his eyes meet mine as he turns back.

Blue eyes.

"Hi," he says through a grin peppered with missing teeth.

"Hi," I reply back.

"Aren't you from HomeTown?"

I stare back at him, stunned, and tug out my earphones. "Yeah, I am. You too?"

He nods.

We fall into a conversation, me with a latte in hand and an argyle scarf picked out to match my jacket slung around my neck, him clad in layers and stubble.

He recognizes me merely from "around". It occurs to me that he may be the older boy who lounged around the mall as I flitted about in ill-fitting uniforms in first and second jobs.

Whilst it seems to me that most people in his place would seek to tug their hoods over their eyes to avoid contact with those who knew their past or regale those from their past with tales belying their current condition, he is refreshingly earnest. He speaks of relapses and of trying to finding affordable housing while avoiding the ghetto, but also the positives of this particular city. He makes no excuses for where he is; he does not rant. He is not attempting to exchange a sob story for cash. He merely narrates. And, when my bus pulls up, he bids me goodbye, with nary a request. 

Interactions like this remind me of how thin the line is, of times when money was so tight I couldn't breathe, of random bursts of luck or misfortune that can collapse that pile of precariously balanced dominoes.

They remind me of the boy I knew growing up, who laughed and teased and sparkled, and then was somehow transported to a bench downtown, hundreds of miles from home, with the deadest eyes I'd ever seen.

And I am so grateful that yesterday's blue eyes still had some sparkle in them.

51 comments:

Hope said...

I'm tearing up here. This was so beautiful!

Clueless Cat said...

Great post. Really. Thanks :)

James said...

a nice post indeed

Maxie said...

I love this post :-)

autobiographyofmyfeet said...

I love random interactions like these that remind you that life is so much more than what you might see on a daily basis.

Wonderful post!

Mama Zen said...

Great post! A very thin line, indeed.

Half-Past Kissin' Time said...

You have a way with words, Princess...thanks for sharing your gift.

lspoon said...

That is so sweet.

Jess said...

This is so interesting. I've never really thought about any of the people I've known in my life winding up homeless, but I imagine it's happened.

La said...

What a beautiful post! You're an amazing writer.

Psychgrad said...

Sounds like an interesting case study. What decisions influence the side of "the line" you end up on?

ttcmb said...

Beautiful post. The line is so thin.

Hazel said...

that was a really nice post! i think we all have stereotypes of homeless people but if we talked to them, i'm sure we would see that they are just normal people who are having a hard time in life.

Wendy said...

It's nice to know he still has some live in his eyes.

And hey! you can borrow the guy but you can't keep him! ;)

Jamie Lovely said...

Beautiful post.

distractedspunk said...

PP, I loved this. You put us into the scene, and I wanted to know more. It's especially momentous as I'm reading a book about homeless people currently.

violet said...

my goodness, how crazy. its true - you never expect peopel you know winding up in less than ideal circumstances. how scary. but you manage to balance the good and bad so nicely here.

thestoryofagirl said...

"And I am so grateful that yesterday's blue eyes still had some sparkle in them."
I know exactly what you mean. It's almost like a sentence of death to lose hope. Beautiful post, girly!

nicoleantoinette said...

I definitely believe that the more people you interact with, the better and more full your life is.

Thanks for this post.

Lisa said...

good conclusion! and now i want to know where you live.

Valerie said...

You certainly have a way with words!

PrincessPolly said...

Oh that is so sad, it sounded like he was a nice guy despite all that happened to him as well.

All Mod Cons said...

Another quality post. Do your standards ever drop? Write something pants for a change! ;)

Abbey said...

You know, I've always wondered about the mindset of a homeless person in this type of situation. Not one that necessarily has a mental illness but that had things get a bit out of hand (financially, drugs, whatever) and lost their grip on maintaining a home of some kind. The thought that at some point it's not a matter of not wanting to or being able to work but that you've been put too far out of society to get back in. I wonder what that feels like and what the thoughts are on that.

Yoda said...

The line you speak of?

That's the source of the only fear I have. I have seen it up close and let me tell you, it was fucking scary!

I want to say that this was a wonderful post, but it sounds so lame, 'coz I say it every other post! Your posts make wonderful sound lame.

Sheila said...

Wow, very... well human of you! Seriously, it would have been *easy* to ignore this man, yet you chose to show compassion by not only acknowledging his existence, but by listening to him.

Very sweet!

Arielle said...

That was a really interesting, poignant encounter and great post!

Chelsea Talks Smack said...

Wow, moments likie that are crazy...

it is a fine line and I always wonder when I see homeless people, what is was that happened how they got there, and then agian I think if I didn't have a lot of the support I have in the past....I would be walking that line..

Beth said...

Not only is this tale a touching and amazing one but how extraordinary that the two of you actually encountered one another.

DG said...

That was so pretty :)

Joanne said...

Aww! I really enjoyed this post. Eyes are meant to sparkle, and blue ones can be especially beautiful! This story reminds me of one of the reasons I want to work with inner-city kids.

Airam said...

Such an insightful post and so very true! It's funny how life can throw us curve balls ...

SMARTBuddy said...

Beautiful. A fine line indeed

Ant said...

I'm very aware of this line - I feel I've had a relatively privileged upbringing but my life has benefited from one enormous stroke of luck centred around my current job. If that hadn't happened I don't know if I'd have slumped to the depths, but it's certainly a possibility. The precariousness of everything we know often hangs by slender threads like this...

I like the dude in the story. This might be middle-class ignorance speaking, but what's to say he's not happy with his lot? He's certainly not frightened or ashamed else the story wouldn't have happened...

captain corky said...

Very nice! This post is a good example of why I love reading your blog.

Miriam D said...

A little sad, but poignant - great post!

And I've tagged you. But you don't have to do it. No obligation. However, I'm supposed to let you know. So I'm letting you know :).

Silverstar said...

Hi,new here.:)
That was a beautifully told story though also very sad. I hope he gets the help he needs and turns his life around.

Ultra Toast Mosha God said...

Hmm.

This made me think of bear - a homeless street poet who I met last year.

He had the same ever-present life in his eyes.

It's good that you engaged him in conversation. There are many who would flee because they believe everything they see on television.

A Margarita said...

That was very poignant. Beautifully written.

NamesAreHardToPick said...

It is interesting how some of the better conversations happen without the headphones. Most of walk through life with the "ignore" button on.

Michelle said...

i don't know if you listen to country music but this story reminded me of a song i love called "Moments" by Emerson Drive.

great piece of writing as always PP!

Damsel in Digress said...

i loved this post, pp. you had me at "a grin peppered with missing teeth"..

a thin line indeed.

blogging said...

this was such a beautiful post. well done.

eric1313 said...

You really stretched out for this one. I love your writing so much and every time I read it I find a new reason why, but this is really you at your best. To catch all the subtlies and hand us a beautiful offering is a real treat. You are a writer, and of that you should never doubt.
--
And thank you for your comments, lately. And no worries, friend, there is no competion with my memory--I romanticize everyone who catches my imagination!

Larissa said...

Well said, PP. I love reading your blog so much!

Katana said...

oh wow... that was wonderful, and sweetly refreshing!

Maithri said...

Powerful writing.

Powerful, powerful writing.

You have a gift that can touch many hearts. That can change things...

Love, M

Princess Pointful said...

Thanks so much for the kind words, everyone.
It was a poignant moment, and it is so nice to be able to share it with people who seem to get that :).
(Side note-- Silverstar, I would love to check out your blog, but it is blocked from me right now!!)

The Duke said...

Lolz, did you get him to pose for a picture? Wait, that would be monstrous...

It's refreshing when two people can relate to each other as people, regardless of history or circumstance.

Cooper said...

I'm not sure my comment went through that was beautifully written.

Dexter Colt said...

I usually give these sorts of people a few dollars.

I have even gone as far as taking a homeless guy into my house. I let him shower, I fed him, and gave him some clothes & a backpack. Then I drove him to Pennsylvania where he said he could get work (this was an hour outside of where I lived at the time)...

I dropped him off at a truck stop and gave him 20 bucks. We parted with a handshake, and that was it. I don't know why I went so far out of my way to help this guy, but I'm glad that I did.