When I first opened this post, I must confess I hadn`t anticipated the level of identification I felt for your story. I live in Brazil. In 2013, I was graced with a full scholarship from my country`s government to study for a year in New York. It was a dream come true. Like yourself, I grew up inspired by that city, and by the amazing characters, fictional and real, who made that such a magical place. On my daily comutes from the dorm to my classes, I used to walk by a middleage man, who used to spend his days near the dorm`s entrance. Many times I imagined approaching him. But I guess everytime I was beat down by my own fears of what that interaction could entail: I feared I could offend him, I feared he would tell me off. But mostly, I think I feared that I would be able to talk to him, that he would tell me his story, and than I wouldn`t know what to do or say to help him. I used to justify my ignoring people on the streets by imagining always that I would be offending them, that they had been through a lot more than I had, and that who was I to believe that I could “barge in” on them and ask them to tell me what happened. How could that help anyone, but my idle curiosity?
But, you know, I too am haunted. Except, I’m haunted by the moments I knowingly chose to ignore him, with some dumb justification in mind.