Homeless in New York

A fictional sketch

What really surprised me was my complete lack of empathy for the person I saw lying, prone on the sidewalk. I was leaving my job for the day where I work for a computer software company in Lower-Manhattan. I mean, I walk past homeless people all the time, but it wasn’t until I was in a taxi on my way home that the image of this homeless person repeated in my mind.

I had completely blocked it out on the way past. I was on autopilot. There were people coming out the building behind me and people in front of me. We were all walking together. How could I stop? How could I? I would be holding everyone up. I mean, what was even wrong with him?

The taxi driver’s flat cap was ripped and shabby and he smelled somewhere between sweat and leather. I kind of recognized him. That’s not right actually. He seemed to recognize me, giving me a few double-takes in his rear-view mirror. At least I think he did.

He was diligently doing his job. I had just finished mine. What did that homeless person do? Why do I even care?

Tomorrow, on my way into work, I will cruise past the space on the sidewalk where the homeless person had been lying face down without stopping, but I will look and wonder what happened to him. I will wonder if he is still alive. I will wonder where he slept last night while I slept in my king-size bed under clean sheets and duvet covers warm. But as I open my emails at my desk, all thoughts of the homeless man will have gone and I will go about my day.

God, this city can really eat you up.

Karl Morris is a writer and journalist from the UK.

Photograph is courtesy of Steve Hodges, acclaimed graphic designer and photographer. You can follow Steve on Twitter @NoodleTank.

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