I’m not going into the whole thing. It would take too long and I have things to take care of or I’m sleeping outdoors again tonight. But the short of it is that I’m the person I used to avoid. I’d avert my eyes. Or I’d look right at me and say, “I can’t help you.”, as if looking meant anything. I am homeless. A street person is the nice sanitized version. A bum. A beggar. A loser. Probably a thief and almost certainly strung out on something. And here’s the part I find too funny. My name is Grace.
How long have I been out here? One year, eight months, fifteen days and about nineteen hours. More or less. It’s May now but I’m not out of the woods. This is only spring time to people with apartments. To us out here sleeping rough (isn’t that just too fucking poetic?), it’s winter until around the end of June. And last night was winter for real. I know better than to be thinking I could indulge myself in a hot sandwich and a bottle. That of course I’d pick up the other $15 I’d need to cop a room uptown. Stupid.
So I’m moving slow this morning. I’m nowhere near any of my preferred begging spots. In fact I’m not entirely sure where I am and if I could just hop the turnstile down on that subway, I’m sure I could find my way back to my part of the city. But I come to my senses. I’m about to the point where one more summons for fare-jumping is going to land me back in lock up. At least the sun’s out. I’ll walk. Walking will warm me up, right? But my clothes are wet and chafe against my skin. Trudging with my head down I about jump out of my skin when here’s Anson, yelling like I’m across the street. What a dope.
“Grac-eeeeee, girl! I needa buck. Gotta buck?”
“I look like a gotta buck?”
Now, this kid’s name is not Anson. Every time I used to see him he told me a different name. But here lately it’s been Anson most of the time. Still that’s sensible. I should try that. He falls into step next to me and we get a nice wide berth on the sidewalk. I used to be the one looking away and holding my breath just in case so I suppose I could give them a pass. But, man, they should see how they like it if this was them. When I’m king of the world everyone is going to be homeless and out on the street for a month. In the winter. That should get some heads straightened around.
“You doing ok?” I ask even though the only acceptable response is a lie.
“Oh, yeah, sure.” He lies but that black eye doesn’t.
Around us the city roars along doing what it does. All those closed faces and swiftly swinging legs. Everyone is getting to work and I need to as well. But now here’s Anson and he’s got that thing going on. He’s like a damned dog. Stop it. I can’t get dragged off into the weeds with this wacked out kid. But the sun feels good and, man, is it ever the perfect day to get wasted. See, here’s where I always get into trouble. Like yesterday with the sandwich and the bottle. That certainty that I got this. I can have it both ways. Why not? Don’t I deserve a break after all I’ve been through?
Anson darts away. Good. Now I can get back on track. But just like that he’s back beaming and holding. How does he do that? I haven’t even figured out how to eat yet today and he’s copped.
“Carlyle’s always got the good stuff.” He grins and we both know what’s next.