My distraction are lonely people

Today's adventures have me encounter two homeless men. Not uncommon in Portland to meet up with people on the streets who call it their home, I just happen to stop and talk to two of them today.

The first I'll call Red Beard. I guess his beard was blondish. Kind of like mine when I grow it out, but mine comes in darker. He had a green hood covering his head as most hood's do, but it was an undergarmet to his coat. His pants were slightly stained and his Nike's looked in pretty good shape. He was pushing a bike. I knew he was a street person because we were in Powell Park, the park voted mostly likely to have an empty bottle of gin in the grass. It was morning, before ten I think but don't know for sure because I had left my timepiece (cell phone) at home, but I think it was because I had to walk my dog and get some school work done early in the day. I had snoozed for about an hour longer than I should have, and needed to complete the part of a group project that I had put off far too long (until the last possible hour). I think I work better under pressure, but at the same time have a hard time determining what I can fit into to that time continum that can get done and can get done well, which is so much fucking better. Bill Gates is in my head reminding me of the one thing he learned at Harvard, "Don't procrastinate." I'm not listening. But I'm trying to listen to this bum. I know he's a bum, despite his clothing -- being sort of clean and all -- because, as mentioned, it's before ten and he's got a brown bag, which wraps around a forty oounce bottle of what I imagine being a malt beverage. He extends his arm my direction and asks me if I'd like a pull, which I refuse and then consider myself rude for doing. Is it rude to refuse an offer in the park, a place a man might call his home? I don't know. But it's early, and I have school work to do. Still, I'm not rude in that I don't leave him there -- at least not right then. I stand and listen to his diatribe. I hear what's bringing him down.

Red Beard, Green Hoodie tells me that he doesn't steal. He collects bottles and that at least that's honest. He's not stealing, which he's witnessed, which he's seen has gotten people into trouble. He says that he's not drinking as much as he was, which I believe to be true because he's up so early, but at the same time I find hard to believe because it is early and he does have a 40 in his hand, which I've mentioned but still feel the need to remind myself. I tell him I think he looks okay because homeless people need especially need the encouragment, and though I can't do much for this man -- I'm walking my dog in the park with empty pockets -- I think that I can afford a few minutes and an ear -- all he wants to do this morning is talk to someone. He goes off about how he's started projects, given them to others only to see them drop the ball, fail. He picks the projects back up, for some reason or another, sets it all back up, and, again for another vague reason, leaves them to it -- whatever it may be.

Red Beard, Green Hoodie says there are some people that don't drink and don't smoke dope. He doesn't understand them. He says that if it wasn't for a beer now and then, if it wasn't for smoking some herb now and then, his feet wouldn't be on the ground. He says these people who don't do these things feet aren't on the ground, and I try to picture these people -- they must be doing something, they must be at work at this hour making a living, working to pay bills. Red Beard, Green Hoodie says he just wants to have a beer. Collect some bottles and cans and watch the world go by. He makes gestures with his mouth and I'm wondering how many teeth he's got in there, not many, I suppose. I continue to listen but find it hard. He's not making much sense. He asks me if I have my pipe on me and I tell him I do not. Then, he tells me a story how the other day he was going through some trash and came across a bag of soil. He says in the bag of soil there was a stem, connected to the stem some leaves. I trust him that he knows the leaves were from a plant that he could smoke, and he assures me that after drying this plant out for the last few days that all he needs to do is find a pipe and he can smoke it, that he can get high and watch the world go by. In the meantime, he feels his pockets and when he gets to his breast pockets he smiles. I knew I had some tobacco, he says, and pulls out the yellow package of Top tobacco. He begins to roll. I want to tell him of my friend that rolls spliffs, a combination of tobacco and marijuana, but I hold my tongue.

I watch him light up the cigarette that he's just rolled. I listen a little more, again because this is all I can give. He asks me if I have any bottles or can, corrects himself, I mean not on you, he says, but still he wonders if I can point him in any direction. I think to yesterday, when I deposited all the bottles and cans from a party we had. How there were some that the machine didn't take, how he could have those and still get money for them, but I don't say anything. I save my breath and shake my head no. By now I want to leave and my dog too. She jumps on this man and gets mud on his pants that seem sort of clean, but he doesn't seem to mind the paw print she's left. He gets joy out of this and says the obvious, what a happy dog you have. I tell him good luck, take care, and goodbye, and I leave the way I came, with him in the park, by the bleechers of a field not played.

Later in the day, after spending money on coffee and eggs, after spending money on a color copy and then on more coffee and a cookie, I'm approached by a man on the sidewalk. Can I get a quarter is all he asked. I'm prepared this time, not to talk but with a quarter in my pocket. I fish for change, the remainder of a bill I broke. I pull out two and begin to hand it to him. He's making an excuse for why he's begging, how he's not from here, how he needs help. I help him, giving him 50 cents. I know it's for booze, that he doesn't deserve this. That I have more than I need. That I don't deserve it either. He's grateful, though, for what I give him. I give him more, a piece of trite advice. I tell him to take care of himself. He should spend the money on food. I know he won't but I don't want to get into it. I want to catch my bus, fill my own stomach. Make myself feel better. Take better care.

There's a voicemail in my inbox that I ignore. I don't know what to say, so I say nothing. I'm sore in the stomach, I ache in the head. I'm tired and at the end of the quarter. I hate excuses and don't know why I'm noticing these things. I don't want to. I want to be grateful. I'm not homeless. I'm not asking for cans or quarters. But I'm still not giving what I can.

No comments :