Last January first, I was walking home from a friend's party. It was after midnight, I was drunk and happy, walking down the street with my headphones on. Somebody behind me started shouting, I took an earbud out and turned around. It was some shady looking guy, he wanted a cigarette. I told him I was out and promptly put my earbud back in my ear. I turned off the mp3 player, though, so I could hear where he was and what he was up to.
I ran into the same guy two more times, each time asking for a cigarette. Once I was trying to get on the el to get to work, and he was standing there asking for a smoke.
I: You know, it seems every time I walk down the street you're there asking for a cigarette.
He: You want some of my donut?
I: No, I don't want your donut.
He (shrugging and smirking): Well, whaddya want me to do? I'm homeless.
I: You look pretty smug for a homeless guy.
So the year went on, and I see him up and down the street begging for change and bothering people. He's in his late twenties or early thirties, though his cockiness hints that he's a young guy who just looks like he's lived every day twice. He wearns nicer clothes than I, and he always has a haircut and a trimmed beard. His clothes aren't filthy and he doesn't smell, but there's an air of the homeless life on him. A quiet, carefree desperation that comes with a life where you don't have to stress over work and bills, but you do have to wonder where your next meal is coming from.
He met up with another regular guy on our street who always claims to be collecting for an AIDS walk. Well, really, they met each other one day when they were both hitting up my block for money, and they shook hands and introduced themselves. I haven't seen the AIDS walk guy since.
Today at the laundromat, a woman walked up to me (there were two other people there) and said, "Do you have a cell phone?" Turns out there was some guy who had been in the bathroom for about an hour. He looked, in her words, "Homeless. Matted hair. Dirty clothes."
I said, "He's probably getting high, or he passed out or something." I went back to taking my laundry out of the washer, unconcerned.
She seemed pretty pissed that I wasn't leaping up to take care of the guy in the bathroom. She insisted that we should call someone. "Who do you suggest we call?" I asked. She had no answer. She was getting quietly upset that I was so nonchalant. My good deed for the day was not telling her about the incredible amount of coke being snorted in the bars nearby.
She kept buzzing around, flapping her mouth about the situation. I asked where the employee was for the place. She said the employees had left. I shrugged. I didn't care. If I needed to pee, my apartment wasn't too far away. I went back to my laundry.
She said something to the effect of, "I live in this area and if there's someone shooting up in the bathroom I want something done about it." I don't know why I didn't tell her to go home and call the cops if she was so fucking concerned. I didn't point out that it was dumb to say she lived in the area, it's not like she's going to drive her clothes two miles to go wash them at this shitty laundromat. I'm off my game today, I guess. A bad way to start the new year.
I don't know why this woman walked up to me to solve her problem. As you might have heard, I'm sick of calling the police. I guess she didn't get the memo. I ignored her, decided to let her and the other lady sort it out. I didn't care. I am that kind of person now, it seems.
So half an hour goes by, and surprise, surprise - there's my old friend with the donut. He can barely stand. I'm on the phone with a friend who knows all about this guy and the situation at the laundromat, and I start laughing at the guy while I'm telling my friend who it is. The donut guy is swaying, his eyes are rolling in his head and his day seems to be off to a good start. Well, in his definition of good.
The other woman who had also bristled at my disinterest had decided to sit out in the car rather than stand around listening to me talk on my cell phone, asking what the fuck they expected me to do about it. Right now the only people there are a woman who won't stop using her speaker phone, the donut guy, and yours truly. I look him right in the eye and laugh low enough that he knows it's at him, but not enough to get him too riled up. In his drugged out haze he knows I'm there, and he knows I'm laughing at him. He gives me a sneer, lights a cigarette, and leaves.
Half an hour later, waiting for the last ten minutes to pass on my dryer, I'm standing by the back door to the place watching the snow fall. I'm right by the bathroom and I nearly choke on the stench of cigarettes. (I'm a smoke snob now, it seems.) I turn, and the donut guy has left his arm tie on the floor, with some wet toilet paper. I go back and stand by my dryer, and it occurs to me that today is January first again, and I met the donut guy a year ago today.
I get home and hear sirens. Maybe they've found him in an alley, splayed out in the snow, overdosed and done for. I doubt it, though. Guys like him don't get off that lucky.