I see him again today, the man with the big green coat. Some would think he’s nice and cosy under all those layers, the coat, the jumper, the shirt and possibly a vest, probably not. His gloves don’t have fingers though and his zip is broken so they don’t do much for him apart from covering his body from the rain. Sometimes, only sometimes, when it’s cold but not too cold, they keep him warm. Today it’s below zero and the roads are icy, I know that he is most likely very cold. He sits in the same spot every day, on a block on the edge of the pavement, cross legged with an open book. I’ve never asked him what book he’s reading although I mean to, I hope to. I used to see him quite regularly and soon he realised I would walk pass him every now and then so we would exchange smiles. One day he even said hello so I mustered up the courage to respond. Soon I figured when he would be there and roughly for how long.
One day we had a “proper” conversation ~
“Hi there.” He says.
“Hi! How are you?” What a dumb thing to ask, why would he want to answer that? He’s homeless he’s not exactly going to be well and dandy. But hey, you never know it is just casual conversation he may not take any offence.
“I’m good yeah, you?”
“Yeah, I’m good, sorry I’m on my way somewhere right now but i’ll probably see you on the way back anyway.” I laugh and he laughs too but not heavily just light and quick so that I’m on way and he gives me a nod and smile goodbye. I’m sure he says something like OK or yeah, but I was walking already so I didn’t hear it clearly and was already far ahead to turn back.
When I come back though he has already left. I am a bit taken aback – they have a life of their own though so it’s only understandable. The next few days I walk pass that spot hoping to see him so that I could finish our conversation but as the days go by he disappears from the streets altogether, there is no sign of him.
Often I would see other homeless men in different corners and little alleys and be reminded of him. But they were neither welcoming nor mindful and were never in his spot. One day, I heard of an accident that had killed a few unidentified citizens and thought that maybe this was the reason I hadn’t seen him for so long. It was sad, but maybe he was better off. Not long after, the deceased were identified, and he wasn’t one of them.
Slowly my workload increased and my mind was filled with many other things, I soon learned that it didn’t matter whether I wasn’t going to see him or not, he was not going turn up out of nowhere all of a sudden.
It just so happened, the very same day I thought about this, he made an appearance. In his usual place and position. I walked pass and exchanged a glance. I smiled at him about to say hello. To my surprise he didn’t smile back and he looked the other way. I don’t think he recognised me. I was upset and I didn’t see him again after that, so I wasn’t able to try again.
“Excuse me love, do you have any spare change?” He asked the girl in front. I was close behind, he would probably ask me next. I never do have change but I always said no and I didn’t want to today.
“Have you eaten today?” I ask.
There was once this woman who asked me for spare change for the bus and when I gave it to her she spent it on an alcoholic drink. I was affected by this deeply, devastated at the inhumanity but I learned my lesson. If I were to buy a meal for this gentlemen, I know that my money was well spent and that he was well treated.
“No, no I haven’t”
“Would you like me to buy you a meal?”
He hesitates for a while but eventually agrees. “I don’t mind buying fast food as long as you get something warm in you. I just want to make sure that you’re getting something good for you is all.”
He just says yeah and nods with a small smile. Shy, embarrassed and a bit uncomfortable.
“Thank you, thanks so much for this!” He says as he begins to dig in to his burger. My heart warms.
“How about I get you one meal a week? Every week on…. Let’s say Fridays, I will buy you lunch?” ~
There is a loud ringing and when I return, everyone is getting up. It’s the fire alarm – I close my book and think about the homeless guy I would’ve liked to help as I make my way out.