CONVERSATION PIECES IV: HOMELESS
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.
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