I’ve meant to post about homeless people. I see homeless people every day I ride into work.
I see them at other times, too, but they are much easier to ignore when you are in a warm or air-conditioned car (depending on the season or time of day).
I’m new to homeless people. Or, rather, having to suffer homeless people on a regular basis is new to me.
Don’t pshaw! me. Don’t think you’re better than me because you have empathy for these people. Because you don’t see them as they, but rather just a sad part of you. To assuage your guilt, you give to charities, your church, or whatever.
But I suffer the homeless.
I breath in shallow breathes as I ride underneath the Fulton overpass, murmuring a quiet good morning to the man who sleeps, farts, bathes, ejaculates, and defecates among the river rocks. A man I call ‘The Troll’.
My heart aches to see a woman waking upon my passing. The whoosh of my cycle wheels startle her, body jumping to attention, eyes wide and scared. Her fetid sleeping bag laid out next to the path flaps open as she emerges. Not even 8am and I’ve ruined her day.
I ride quickly by the camp of three to six men. Half hidden beneath a tangle of tarps, their voices rise with the sun; fighting for attention, supremacy, food, and shelter.
Popping off the bike path onto Pierson Street, I turn. Speed past the dance studio and teen center, cross the railroad tracks, then stop at the corner of Sixth and Wilson, checking for traffic before moving on.
If I’m late, the crowd is gone. Either inside the shelter, or off to find a corner of a park to occupy the day.
If on time, they stand against the side of the shelter catty-corner from me, patiently awaiting their turn to enter and break their night’s fast.
If early, they are milling about the intersection, shouting a greeting or curse to the people who will listen, to the people who matter, to their kin.
For the most part, they ignore me. And I try to ignore them.
But it’s hard.