He was sitting on the ground in the doorway of the National City Bank on E. 9th and Superior wearing dirty jeans, an army jacket and combat boots like a damn wannabe. “Hey man, gotta smoke?” he asked looking up in the pouring rain, and I sat down and offered him one
“How’d ya get here, man?” I asked him as I watched others hurrying back and forth to and from their jobs, theirs cars, their homes, their lives.
I don’t know,” he said, “I graduated from college, did all the things I was supposed to do, but you can only go so long without a job.”
“Yeah, I heard that…..” I told him, “After fighting for this country, eight years, two wars, and all I got is free health care at the VA –problem is, they don’t let you live there.”
As we were comparing which churches would help, or had food on which days, and which churches were being closed down, we heard the sound of high heels on wet payment announcing two women walking by, “You know I wanted to get my chin tucked, but in this economy I can barely afford my quarterly botox injections.”
So, have you tried the food at St. James,” he asked, “because I don’t know what they do, but it’s better than the others, and they never push you out or give you limited time.”
Man……St. James closed last week,” I told him.
“Well, have you stayed at St. Aloysius, “ he continued, “ because they let men sleep there on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and they have a TV, and they let you use the showers.”
“St. Aloysius is closing on Monday…” I told him, “pretty soon…there’s gonna be nothin’”
Have you been to the Department of Jobs and Family services, though man, I heard they can train you in things, help you get a job, even give you food stamps.”
He was so optimistic that I hated to keep bursting his bubble like that, “but they only help you if you have an address,” was followed by his averted eyes and silence.
“I was wonderin’ how you got here, because…you know, I had a job…I mean it was entry-level, but promising…–no insurance, and no insurance would accept me –even if I could’ve afforded to pay more than rent for it.”
“Why not?” I asked as the rain began to hit the front of his hair and drip down over his eyes.
“I have Juvenile Diabetes –pre-existing condition,” he let out one of those little subconscious laughs as I heard his stomach growl. “After a while, I couldn’t afford the medicine and all that, I was barely making enough to live as it was like damn slave labor –uh, no offence, man.”
I laughed, “Slavery exists in many forms, my man, even today.”
“Yeah, so I ended up losing my foot,” he said pointing to his right combat boot as I wondered how I hadn’t noticed the cane leaning against the brick wall, “followed by my place, and then my job… so, uh, how’d you get here, man?”