Saturday, January 28, 2012

Homeless Interactions

The only two meaningful human interactions I've had today were with homeless people.

The first, Ernie, was at Starbucks. He was sitting by a young man, talking about various classic rock bands. I noticed, standing there, that Ernie seemed to be getting progressively more agitated. And then I realized that my hands were in my pockets, and I remembered Ernie telling me that he doesn't like it when people have their hands in their pockets. So I took them out, and he relaxed.

In the course of his monologue, Ernie tells the young man that he knew his father. The young man looks surprised, incredulous.

"You knew my father?" the young man asks, "What was his name?"

Ernie doesn't answer, just keeps talking about Led Zeppelin. I know that Ernie doesn't really know the guy's dad, that as a schizophrenic, he tends to mix up fantasy with reality. The young man doesn't seem to get this. Truth be told, Ernie's fanciful mixing of fantasy and reality is one of the things I've come to appreciate about him. In his world, he is not bound by "the facts."

The other interaction was outside Togos. This other homeless guy pushes his Target shopping cart up to me. He walks like a man with epilepsy. Inside his shopping cart are various boxes and a large pink stuffed rabbit. When he reaches me, he bends over, almost like he is bowing, and stays like that for a long time. He makes various strange noises. With homeless people, I have learned not to be disturbed by strangeness, not to expect social conventions. When the man stands up from his bowing, he sort of lolls his head around, opening and closing his mouth widely, a big toothless grimace. I help him lift his shopping cart up the curb. His grimace transforms into something like a grin, and he walks inside Togos, leaving his cart outside.

I walk home, feeling sort of heavy. Some of my days are heavier than others, but I imagine that, for that guy, most of his days are heavy.


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