A homeless man laid on the ground against a gray concrete building in the City. It was 37 degrees this morning. He was sleeping, suddenly his body jerked hard wakening him violently. He sat up and started yelling, “Get away from me.” “Get away from me.” As the passersby moved to the far end of the sidewalk, he motioned wildly with his arms and hands, still yelling, “Get away from me!”
After a few moments he reached behind the marble pillar he was using to shield his face from the street and pulled out of fifth of SMIRNOFF vodka. It was a quarter full. He took a swig then slowly screwed the top back on it, gently put it back in it’s hiding place. When his hands could be seen again he removed a Newport 100, and lit it with a black bic lighter. He sat in silence taking an occasional drag from the cigarette. Again, he started jerking his arms and waving his hands for the imaginary person to leave his space. He was speaking in a volume that could not be heard beyond where he was sitting on the ground against the gray concrete and marble building. Just as suddenly as he started jerking his arms and waving his hands he stopped. He finished his Newport and flicked it towards the street.
At least one hundred people had passed by him on the sidewalk by now. Many not looking in his direction. A young blonde haired male with black earphones looked at him with disgust as he passed, slowing his stride as he got closer to him to get a better look.
A man in a navy blue wool hat and matching parka strolled down the street. He was carrying a metallic blue stainless steel water bottle in one hand and a brown paper bag in the other slowed his walk as he approached the homeless man. He stopped and smiled at him, handed him the brown paper bag, bid him a good day and walked on. The homeless man looked in the bag then placed it on the outside of the marble pillar. He reached behind the pillar to retrieve the SMIRNOFF bottle, took another swig and put it back, again with a Newport in his hand. He sat and smoked in silence.
People walked up and down the block some rushing to work, a few carrying gym bags, others walked holding a dog leash, their dog at their side. A woman in a mink, a man in a navy pea coat using a blind person’s cane as his guide.
A small girl wearing a pink coat, white scarf, colorful beads adorning her braids looked into her father’s eyes as they got closer to the man, neither said a word. He handed her something. When they got to the man sitting on the cold ground against the building they stopped. She handed him money that was carefully folded in her hand, tears in her eyes she said, “I love you.” The homeless man said nothing as he accepted the money she held out to him. The father fought back his tears, they walked on in silence. The little girl looked up at her father and smiled. He took her hand and they walked on down the street.
The homeless man turned to watch them until he could not see them any longer. He reached into his pants pocket and pulled out a stack of folded bills. He unfolded his money exposing 20’s, 10’s, 5’s and one dollar bills. He unfolded the money the girl with the braids handed him. He separated the five dollar bill from the single one, put them in their proper place in his stack and put the money back in his pocket.
Just then another man walked up and handed the homeless man a large iced coffee from Starbuck’s and a straw and walked on without a word. The homeless man discarded the white paper from the straw beside him on the ground took a big sip then placed the iced coffee on the window ledge above his head.
As I sat in the warmth of the car ten feet from the homeless man I looked closer at his clothing. He was wearing brown and white suede sneakers not worn or dirty other than the heel of the shoe where it rested against the sidewalk. He had on black socks, a pair of black jeans, not worn or dirty other than the dirt acquired from laying on the ground. He had on a black sweatshirt that appeared to be dirty from laying on the ground as well. His hands were ashy from the cold dry air of the morning.
I looked at the clock on the dash of the car as I turned the key in the ignition to warm the car again. It was 8:50 a.m. I had been sitting there since 7:08 a.m. waiting for my friend to return from her early appointment. The homeless man laid down, crossed his his left leg over his right leg. He rested his left arm over his forehead, and his right arm across his stomach. Five feet away from the homeless man, a man stopped with his dog so he could pee and take a crap on the sidewalk. The homeless man never moved.
The street of passersby began to get quiet as it was now nine a.m. Those that did pass him speeded up their pace as they got closer. A jogger in black running shoes with a white and neon green top flew by the homeless man. He turned on his side shielding his face from the sun and the passersby. He began to tap his foot as if he could hear music.
I saw my girl friend come around the corner. Time to put my paper away and get back in the passenger seat.