Wednesday, July 22, 2009

true things

I met a man named Will on the bus this morning. He complained of his car breaking down and how he hoped he had the money to fix it. He was dismayed that his brother wouldn't pick him up because it was too inconvenient. He spoke of one time when a friend of his decided to trade his Benz for Will's bicycle for a day and how everywhere Will went that day he was received as though he were successful, but that when he was on his bicycle he was treated as some black guy on a bike.

"I just want to meet people with true hearts," he said. "People with true hearts who will take care of me and I can take care of them. People who are more interested in true things than they are in owning stuff."

Will told me he liked to travel and try new food. I asked him what his favorite restaurant was and he said he liked all kinds of food, African, Greek, Italian, before asking me what I liked. I told him I mostly cook at home, but that I liked all the food carts popping up downtown. He agreed they were tasty. "And they give you decent portions, too," he said.

We shook hands, introduced ourselves and wished each other a good day before I stepped off the bus.

Moments later, I was approached by a homeless man in a green army surplus jacket with wild hair and a full beard. His blue eyes looked tired as his eyes met mine.

"Hello, miss. Can I ask you a question?"

I stopped and waited to hear what he had to say.

"I don't want to be out here this close to death," he said, holding his index finger an inch apart from his thumb. "I got cleaned up out at my sister's. I got cleaned up and I just got out of the hospital." He held his wrist out toward me. "Here's my hospital band if you don't believe me. And my back's getting better."

He paused and looked me in the face directly.

"I want to ask you a question, please. And I want to say please. You can say no if you like." He paused again. "My name's Scott," he said, extending his hand, "What's yours, sweetheart?"

He called me sweetheart the way old ladies and Southern gentlemen do, in a way that was endearing and not presumptuous or off-putting.

"Shannon," I said, shaking his hand.

"Shannon. I know I have problems and I know they probably have to do with my alcoholism." He seemed unafraid of his own candor, which was nice. "Well, I was wondering if I asked you for a dollar... well, I don't usually ask for a dollar, but if I did, would you..." His voice trailed off for a second.

"Scott, you know what? Today I had enough cash for a cup of coffee, which doesn't happen often since I'm up to my ears in debt from going to school," I told him. "But I have a dollar and I'd be happy to give it to you." I took the dollar from my bag and handed it to him.

"You would? Thanks hon," he said and took the dollar. He smiled, paused for a second, and said, "God bless you" before turning the corner and heading toward a cheap morning meal.

These were the coolest, if a little random, ten minutes I've experienced on the way to work in a long time.