There were eleven people around me. All were men. None were doing well. Nione of these would ever have their story told. None would tell his own story. And no one else would care enough to tell it for him. I looked out the glass of the window-walls into the cloudy day. Some few people stood on the light-rail platform, poised for the early run. Nearly everybody comes here though, first, to get what is needed the other side of a dark and irresponsive night, even the locals who commute to work via light rail. Usually it's coffee. Some move on. Some linger here. I will tell their story. But there will be no names.
They don't deserve for me to tell their story. They are likely addicts. They choose to disfigure their lives. It is their choice. But they present the picture of poverty, too, so they receive our attention and make us wonder. They are gray, have unkempt hair, wear gray clothes with sometimes some faded blue. They are as bleak as a mass of watery clouds in the sky. There seems no difference to me, dreary day or washed out soul. They seem listless. Take the worst of what's offered. Smoke -- they must do it outside these days, but they pollute the just-washed cement after they're done smoking with the remnants of their persisting dirty habit, a habit that owns them like the world owns them -- oh yes the world owns them. They are in the vice of hatred among those who have jobs, who have succeeded, who have families still growing. They are dirty, they go against our general principles of cleanliness therefore. And they are cursing people. They bring forward a carelessness for their fellows that I think I do not understand. The clothes droop though they are dry, but as if very damp. It is all old cotton. Sometimes they find a way to buy a small yogurt. Somehow, too, there is the single custard danish. The jerky man -- Tourette's? -- makes big gestures every time he moves. He will get no help. I do not know his name. He will be sick until the day he dies. And no one will have known that such-and-such (put his name in here) was alive. His birth record will be his only record, probably. Maybe some genealogist somewhere will want to know his whereabouts for collateral history purposes. No one knows. He tried to cut the danish with a knife. First of all the knife wasn't sharp. Second, the Danish was cold and rubbery, so not likely to cut easily anyway. He'd get up when after trying to cut the sugary pastry like an excited conductor of a Tuba symphony he was too frustrated (as it seemed he was sometimes). He wears two feathers in his hat. Have never seen this man before. Wears fairly new athletic style black shoes with black patent features on the upper. His cloth was dirty. He didn't actually speak. No one will ever know who he was, once he chooses to leave. That is just fine with me. He must write his own story or it will not be told.
It is hard to understand. But I think that in many many cases the causes can be traced back to pure grief. To loss. To emotiional devastation (here, I am not talking about mental illness only the bad condition of those who have chosen a lifestyle of self-deprecation, who sleep in the cold, who take our change from us, who probably form the basis of a local database as part of receiving some services locally). Grief: someone lost a husband; someone lost a mother, a son, a daughter . . . . It is loss that sometimes is at the heart.. The story would reveal a sadness that wouldn't admit to itself, but that would quickly evolve into self-destruction. We do not all handle grief so badly as these men and these women (the women are out there too); but the story is the same for us human beings, that we need each other, that we need those whom we are blessed to have. That without the complement of beauty, of care, of commitment something big would be missing and we would take our tea in lonely corporate coffee-houses at six a.m. and be written about anonymously by people who do not know us and who do not bother to ask our names. Signed G. Claire, this 4th day of August 2011, a Thursday morning. <> <> <> <>