CONVERSATION PIECES IV: HOMELESS

(farm4static.flickr.com)
(farm4static.flickr.com)

By: Wayne Brown

The streets are always miserable after it rains. Most folks think little of it but when you are homeless like me, it makes a difference. Sometimes, I am lucky enough to be able to get out of the rain and stay dry if I can go unnoticed. But I am not the type that is good for business so most folks will run me off and into the rain if I am caught hanging around. It’s those times when it is bad because I get soaked to the bone. Most folks would say there are too many places to go if it is raining but they might be surprised to find out how few there really are that can be used by someone like me.

It rained all morning. My clothes and my shoes are soaked through. I have not eaten in two days; only had a bottle of water that some nice soul handed me as I stood in front of a convenience store. Truth be known, I’d rather it had been a pint of whiskey. But, beggars can’t be choosers so I settled for the water. It filled the void in my stomach for a while. It’s better than being hungry. I can live with the hunger but I sure could use a drink right now. I like my whiskey straight out of the bottle. Never mind all the other crap like glass, ice, and such. To each his own but drinking it straight from the bottle seems to work best for me.

I don’t reckon you ever thought about being homeless did ya? Most folks haven’t. Most folks look at me with pity in their eye but a bit of distain on their face. The message is clear…you steer clear of me buddy and we’ll have no trouble. To tell you the truth, I had rather steer clear of all of them but they are a necessity to my lifestyle. Ya see, they got money and I need whiskey. They are a necessary element in the formula that gets me drunk on a regular basis. My outlook on the world changes then…I can laugh a bit; loosen up and maybe tell an old war story or two. When I’m like that, I don’t mind you being around. Hell, to tell the truth, after I hit that bottle a few times, I don’t know if you are around or not and I don’t care either.

How does a man like me get to this place? I don’t know. You just look up one day and here you are just getting’ by anyway you can. You never planned it this way, it just happened so you make the best of what you have and get by with what you can. Somewhere along the line, I think I quit giving a damn about anything. Everything that was in my life back then is gone now; either left on their own or I forced them out when my darker side emerged. People only disappoint you. Who the hell needs them anyway?

You pity me? Sure you do but not enough to take me home with ya! That’s really a hoot ain't it? No, it’s a crock of shit, that’s what it is. You pity me but not enough to share a part of your life; not enough to want to get to know me or be my friend. You pity me just enough to hand me a few bucks and hope that I will get along out of your sight and you will no longer have to feel the discomfort and to sit there thinking that one day you could be me with the wave of a hand. You buy me whiskey trying to help me forget it and you drink whiskey yourself hoping that the image of me will be burned out of your mind. In many ways, you fear me because I represent all that you don’t want to become in this life. I scare you because when you look at me you see yourself.

Do you know what it is to be down and out? Have you ever been to a place where you had no idea where your next meal was coming from or even when? Have you ever loved booze more than any other substance or living thing? Well, I have. I’m not ashamed of it. My only regret is that I wish I could get my hands on more of it than this paltry life provides. Booze is something to be cherished. I do cherish it and I do drink it when I can get it. I drink the good stuff, Lil’ Red Rooster at two bucks a pint. It’s 120 proof. It burns a little going down at first but then it smoothes out and drinks okay. To tell the truth I wish I had a drink right now. Yes sir, I surely do wish that.

Of course my dignity has suffered. How could it not suffer eating old loaf bread out of musty dumpsters. I gagged a bit at first but then the hunger overcame my weak stomach. I am like an animal foraging for food all day long and sleeping in the shadows at night. I avoid contact as much as possible but I’ll go begging to get my hands on a little whiskey. You know how it is to beg?  Nobody wants to do it. You see, my need for the whiskey is greater than my shame of begging. That’s the simple truth. You, you have no greater need. You are warm, sheltered, fed, and you have money in your pocket for whiskey if you want it. You have no need to beg so you abhor the thought. Come walk a mile in my shoes and see how you feel about it.

You think I should get a job; I know you do. You are not the first one to say that. You won’t be the last. The truth of the matter is no one really wants me around so why would they offer me work. I remind them of all they don’t want to be. I am the physical representation of failure in their eyes. They cannot stomach that on a daily basis even to try and help me out. That’s probably all for the best since I wouldn’t be around long anyway. Soon as I got paid the first time, I’d be off to the liquor store and I’d buy up my whole check in pints of Little Red Rooster. 'Cause ya see, there ain’t nothing else I need. Aw, I might hold back enough for a little bit to eat, but only one meal mind you. I don’t want to waste my whiskey money on food.

Then me and the rooster will head off to some alley or get underneath a bridge and have ourselves a party. I try to find a place that I can be alone ‘cause I don’t want to share my rooster with nobody, nobody. I can carry on a conversation with myself and the rooster so why do I need anybody drinkin’ my whiskey that I bought with my money? That sounds reasonable don’t it? You’d be the same way if you didn’t know where your next drink was coming from or when. You got to get all you can while you can.

I know you want to help me. I know you do. I can tell by the way you cut your eyes at me not wanting to walk on by but still not wanting to get involved. I know that look. I can make it easy for you. I can. All you need to do it just slip me a few bucks and I’ll be out of your sight as fast as you can turn around. It’s just that easy. It’s just that easy. So what do say, you wanna buy me a drink of whiskey? My throats mighty dry from all this begging. I sure would like to have a drink. What do ya’ say? Buy an old man wearin’ wet clothes a little drink. Just one.

 

© Copyright WBrown2010. All Rights Reserved.

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Comments 23 comments

Minnetonka Twin profile image

Minnetonka Twin 6 years ago from Minnesota

You really outdid yourself here Wayne. This is so sad for many reasons. Sad because of how this man feels and sad that he has given up everything for buse. It really makes you think about the reactions we have when we see the homeless. Why judge the homeless when we should just love. Really touching Wayne.


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 6 years ago from Texas Author

@Minnetonka Twin...Thank you. This is one of those in the series where I try to insert myself into the mind of this person and speak from their perspective. It's a bit exhausting because I have to work at what I think they would say rather than what I would say myself. Anyway, glad it worked out and glad you enjoyed it. It is a sad subject unfortunately because there is so much mental illness, alcohol, and drug dependence that underlies homelessness. I think that it why it is so difficult to fix. Many of these people do not want to be anywhere that affects their ability to satisfy their habits...to which they are slaves in many cases. When we try to help them with money, most times we are just facilitators of their habit. It's sad. Thanks for the read and the good words. WB


Tom Whitworth profile image

Tom Whitworth 6 years ago from Moundsville, WV

Wayne,

You accomplished something I thought was impossible. You made me speechless.


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 6 years ago from Texas Author

@Tom Whitworth...I hope that is a good thing Tom. Otherwise, let me know how I screwed up! LOL! WB


Harvey Stelman profile image

Harvey Stelman 6 years ago from Illinois

Wayne, Sorry to say, I didn't buy it. I've come close to losing everything, but wouldn't allow it to happen. It isn't a need for the whiskey it's a desire. Some call it a disease, there is a fat cure. Stop drinking. I have MS, that's a disease. No treatment or cure. Thanks why I hate articles like this. Like having drunks lumped in my catagory of disabled. More than 50% are said to have mental problems, they should get help.

Sorry! H


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 6 years ago from Texas Author

@Harvey Stelman...Harvey, my perspective here is not to pity this person or to say that he suffers a disease. It is more to say that so many of us think we are helping them by giving them money which on feeds that weakness they cannot overcome. I agree with you. I do not look up this as so much of a "disease" as it it a "genetic disorder". By doing so, we classify "acoholism" as a disease; "gambling" as a disease and so on. And I agree, these are not diseases in the sense of MS over which you have no control or ability to just go before an audience and I "that's it I quit". Alcoholism, gambling, and other behaviors are more like bi-products of some gene deficiency in the individual which is far beyond my medical capability. But regardless, it becomes a "fanaticism" within the individual which they say they cannot control. That's up for argument. I think it is unusual that if it is indeed a disease, why do people have to stand up and apologize for it? Surely, you don't belong to a group where you get up in front of the audience and say, 'hello, I am Harvey and I have MS'. Anyway...my basis nere is not to sell pity, it is to make more people understand that they must fight their nature to support this circumstance for that individual. Hopefully, that makes sense. I am not expressing my feeling in this story, I am trying to relate theirs. Thanks much for the read Harvey and all your good words. WB


TimBryce 6 years ago

Wayne -

Good stuff. You did a great job of getting into his shoes.

All the Best,

Tim


breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 6 years ago

Wayne,

I get sick every single time I see a homeless man asleep in a doorway in Manhattan. The sad truth is most of these people are suffering from mental illness and usually reject help. There are shelters, there are services but most of the time the homeless turn away from help. The families forced to live in their cars are the ones that tear me apart as well because there is a generation of kids growing up in sad motels in the richest country in the world.


Loves To Read profile image

Loves To Read 6 years ago

This is a very touching article Wayne. As you said, you tried to speak from the mind of this homeless man and i think you did a wonderful job of it. It is a sad fact of life that these people do exist but giving them money is not the answer. It would be better to buy them a feed.

God Bless


ladyjane1 profile image

ladyjane1 6 years ago from Texas

Wow Wayne it doesnt get any sadder than that. I have seen many homeless people in my life and it does make one feel helpless and also one feels guilty that they cannot help all of them and also guilty because when you give them money as I have often done, I always know in the back of my mind that they will use it for booze or drugs...Great hub great job. You never cease to amaze me. Cheers.


sheila b. profile image

sheila b. 6 years ago

I think you did a really great job with this. Just when I might be feeling some pity for the man, he shows me nothing really matters to him but the next drink. Good, good writing.


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 6 years ago from South Africa

There is a saying: “For the love of God it could have been me.” But I have a problem with this, for it implies that hoboes are not loved by God, which is not true. It is truly a matter of never had the opportunity to excel, born in the wrong circumstances, did not develop the ambition needed to succeed, perhaps due to genealogical shortcomings or parental failures, or.... one can write a hub about this. But this issue gives meaning to a scripture in the Bible: Proverbs 31:6 – “Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts.” For what are they living for? Just to remind others not like them to be grateful for not living like them? Great hub, like all your hubs! Oh, and yes, we do avoid them, for we know they will never change and they may become a financial burden for us and a source of frustration.

And another problem – you get glorified hoboes, living under the roofs of Samaritans, even married to Samaritans!


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 6 years ago from malang-indonesia

This hub remind us how life is so complicated. There's a gap between the richer and the poorer. But I hope we can share what we have with others. Like for homeless. Very inspiring hub. You told about fact, Wayne. I like this hub and good story from you. Vote up.

Prasetio


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 6 years ago from Texas Author

@prasetio30...Life is very complicated. Mental illness makes it worse as is the likely case with this story. This is a two edged sword in that these people do need help but the kind that most of us give them only drives them deeper into their consequence. We salve our own guilty and buy the guy another drink. It's a complex situation and unfortunately in the USA is still too often just looked upon as someone down on their luck who needs a hand up. We create taxpayer supported programs for these people that do not work because the programs too often failed to recognize the root cause of the problem...typical government fix. Thanks for the read and the good words! WB


50 Caliber profile image

50 Caliber 6 years ago from Arizona

Wayne, excellent write that made for a soul searching read. "but for the grace of God go we". I've long since dropped my pride, I wear out clothes and shoes, I wear a scruffy beard with long hair and appear to many as a bum when I go to town. I've had folks try and give me money, I don't have to ask. I politely refuse it and thank them and tell them to please pay it forward to one who really needs it. I morn the loss of a good faithful, favorite shirt, well worn and comfortable. Truth is and I can feel it when I go to town, folks are afraid of what they think I am and many steer wide and clear. I feel sorry for them as they judge a man on what they see. I used to respond to one who asked for money so they might eat, that walk across the lot here to a burger joint and I'll buy all you can eat. Knowing many wanted drug or booze money instead, and truth be told many needed that drink or shot to push them on through the day. I have stepped away and give them the cash now, I no longer judge them. After a life of sleepless nights due to circumstances, bloody and violent, I can relate to many, just how important that drink may be. If you give a gift it is no longer yours the recipient is free to use it how they please, they are the ones who are charged with it's use, who am I to say what is right for them? God Bless each and every one, 50


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 6 years ago from Texas Author

@50 Caliber...I couldn't say it better, Dusty. We don't know what some of these guys have seen or what voices they can't get out of their head or for what reason. A stiff whiskey may be all that brings a bit of piece sometimes In that regard, I don't mind buying a man a little peace now and then. Thanks for the comment. WB


saddlerider1 profile image

saddlerider1 6 years ago

I am in full accordance with what Dusty has written. I couldn't agree with him more. I knew of a few in my past life of freinds who were down and out, hit the bottom, found the drink as their constant companion.

I to had a bout of Mr Jack and I could easily have slid to the street. But being the fighter I am I kept moving forward, not giving in to the bottle or the streets. Unfortunately for many they don't have the will power to move forward or they simply give up caring, they fall down and can't get up. There wheels fall off their wagon and they are broken.

These are the ones who we will find in the streets along with children, teens and many old folks. And guess what? the numbers are increasing due to the economy and unemployment and them losing everything.

I have even read of a few on the hubs here who are seriously struggling and wondering how they are going to survive. So Wayne, first I want to commend you for putting yourself in that man's shoes, but until you can actually really be in them, it's so hard to fully understand their plight.

This is a sensitive subject and you did a marvelous job of conveying your feelings about it. I will leave you with this. " Never stop giving and reaching into your pocket, never care or question what he/she down and outer is going to do with that silver you handed em, be BLESSED in the knowledge of leaving with a giving heart.

Like you said in the story the best thing you can do to help is give me a couple of bucks-period. But I know many people have difficulty with that because they keep questioning themselves about what the homeless is going to do with the money you may give them?

Who cares- just give and you will be blessed. Always being happy that you are NOT REALLY in their shoes, nor do you ever want to be. Thank you pardner for digging deep into your soul to simulate the feeling of a desperate and homeless man/woman. Peace brother


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 6 years ago from Texas Author

@sadddlerider1...Ken, I hope that writing this is as close as I ever come to living it. Thanks for the great commentary and insight. I also tend to agree with you on buying the guy a drink....I won't miss the money and he will probably remember me for it. Bless 'em all! WB


lalesu profile image

lalesu 6 years ago from south of the Mason-Dixon

Wonderful writing, Wayne Brown and oddly, I've never had to do any serious soul searching over this. I've just never considered it my place to judge the hardships of another human being's life. Whether it's drugs, alcohol or mental illness that have driven a person to live on the street or living on the street that has driven a person to drugs, alcohol and mental distress, at the moment that I am confronted with that person a couple of bucks isn't going to break me and it might be the only comfort they have in their entire day. Do I really believe they're going back into the convenient store to buy a hotdog and a bag of chips? Not likely...odds are they're heading next door to the liquor store as soon as they've got enough cash collected to get them through the rainy night or blistering sun or the freezing cold wind. I'd probably pass on the hotdog, too.


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 6 years ago from Texas Author

@lalesu...sometimes, I think some things in life are best just left as they are. Sometimes, it's just the nature of the world. Many of us spend our days not knowing at all what we want from life. This man only wanted one more drink of whiskey...seems sad that it is so hard to acquire something so straight forward and simple. It's just the way the world is today...folks soothing their own conscious trying to fix someone else. Thanks for the good words! WB


SilverGenes 6 years ago

Judgement is not ours to make but we do it every day. There is a lot of truth in the old saying "what goes around, comes around" and since statistically we are all a lot closer to being homeless than we can comprehend, it might be good to have a little compassion in our karma bank. Yes, drugs and alcohol are part of street culture but it kills pain. Street people can't afford martinis, vacations, good cigars so their pain killers look a little different and they take them more often. It may not have been alcoholism that put this man on the street but it's what takes the pain away now. Wayne, I'd like to see you explore this person more. It's a good start :)


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 6 years ago from Texas Author

@SilverGenes...I wouldn't mind exploring him more but inserting myself into the shoes of others is an exhausting task for writing as I have stated before. I have to force myself to them like them as much as I can determine what it would be and that works me over pretty good. All of these "Conversation Pieces" in the series have been difficult from that standpoint. I might be able to take this same person and work his dependency from the angle of causation...that might work for another piece. After I get about a hundred of these, I may have enough for a book! LOL! WB


SilverGenes 6 years ago

Wayne, you are right about taking on a personality being exhausting. I imagine it's what an actor must feel taking on a role like this. If we could just get it to work like putting on an overcoat for awhile and then hanging it up and having tea, it would be perfect. Yes, Outsider Portraits would make a great book! Go, Wayne, go!

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