Half a City Block

I am asked often, “Why do you and Missy go to the gym 30 minutes early?” If they only knew…

We park about half a city block from the gym door. Getting from our cars and inside the gym is an adventure. Take for instance yesterday morning. We get out when suddenly I hear our names being called from across the street. We turn in the direction of the voice and it is Clifford needing a ski cap. Oh, if it was only that easy.

I open my cover on the back of my pick-up truck and reach in to grab the ski cap and turn just as Clifford leans over the tailgate wanting to know if he can have a coat; recently a guy and his wife blessed us with about 6 brand new winter coats… I look up at Clifford and say something about what was wrong with the one he was wearing? Nothing of course but he wanted another color.

People think women are picky about their clothes…you have no idea how picky a homeless man is when it comes to “mismatch style”/// anyway, after trying on a few coats we finally settled on a grey and I told Clifford it went well with his brown skin. “Sold!” I thought that if I had only thought of that 15 minutes ago. Could have saved some time here.

The alacarte of questions is long and could fill a book. Depending on the man and how close we are we can be asked for 55 cents from one to a dollar from the next one. A pair of gloves could be a need when over to the side I focus on a fella that seems too shy to ask as I hand out a pair to him as well… he thanks me as he quickly moves on. Never dull.

Often we play the game “don’t look.” If our fellas sitting on park benches that line the sidewalk to the entrance of the gym have their backs to us we play “Don’t look at them!” Sometimes it works because at 10 in the morning they are already too drunk to even notice us, other times they’re still working their hustle and haven’t made enough for even 1 beer. Those are the difficult journeys from car to entrance…

The list of wants and needs get fired off…politely mind you. Mike, I need a dollar. Timmy… 55 cents. Donnie wants to call his brother Jack. Shaky Roy is usually calling out loudly “Baby Girl” if he is drunk and if sober??? He is extremely quiet and sick. Clifford loves to laugh and have a good time but Walter wastes time needing pathetic hugs to just make himself feel like he has done something. Don’t run across Street Mary, she will talk your ear off for hours if you let her while Christine slowly shuffles by barely saying a hello. Bob and (white) Steven act like they like us and we do the same. While  (black) Steven I shoot up a high-five and practice my strut…

Missy and I ran into a fella that was on the streets today at McDonald’s. He was there with his wife and son. He is doing well he said. Quit drinking and no longer wants to go back to the streets. I hold my breath…Woody has been on and off the streets for 7 years.

Today as Woody and I talked we recalled many of the men. I asked him if he knew “mouthwash” Joe, Tony Boy, Bubba, (Black) Tony had died this year? He was shocked. I asked if he knew Don Juan was in a nursing home not ever expected to come out again? He again appeared sad as he softly said he didn’t know that… I told him, “Be good Woody…” as I walked away I found myself so thankful he didn’t know any of this. The little world I travel in called “having homeless friends” is only why I know. Nobody else really knows my friends die pretty much alone every year. I know, and God knows… ahhh but life goes on.

Tonight Missy was pulling into the gym parking lot to where I left my truck earlier this morning. I noticed as we drove up the street that the gym was closed, all the cars had left and there sat my little white truck. All the men on the streets know the back doesn’t lock and inside under the cover of the bed are coats, hats, gloves, blankets, some jeans and sweatshirts. I honestly can’t tell you what all I do have in there. But you know what? Never ever have any of our fellas ever opened that cover up and taken a single thing out without asking first. NEVER! It is left alone on the streets near them often.

As we drove closer to the parking lot Missy and I noticed Mike and John walking across the parking lot passing my truck. I wanted to tell Missy to “Hit the Gas!!!!” I knew that these guys were not going to just let me get out of Missy’s car and into my truck. I was right!!!

Mike and John only wanted a smile, a laugh and even a quick hug. John asked if I had any food and I felt awful that I had nothing. I knew earlier a group were feeding men up at a park but John didn’t make it. He barely was making it across the pavement.

I felt sad as I pulled off. That time of the evening they were heading towards their “spots” (bushes, old buildings/houses, under bridges or porches on the back of buildings downtown) to go to sleep for the day. Tomorrow will be a repeat of their today. Mike told me as I  was about to roll up my window that the police just took Donnie to jail. I smiled and told him that he just got out yesterday when John interrupted and asked me to pray for Daffney. (Johns girlfriend) He hasn’t seen her in two weeks and is worried. I told John I would as I finished rolling up the window and drove away.

My mind played over and over how concerned John was about his Daffney. I am too, she is very special to me. I found myself shooting up Second Ave. looking in areas she might be knowing I honestly had no clue which crack house she would maybe hit or even if I was on the right side of town.

The wind has started to blow harder tonight and the tempreture has dropped to 48. When I brought my few bags of groceries into the house I mentioned to my son that it’s going to be a  cold night tonight under the bridge… thoughts of the men… they never go away.

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2 Responses to “Half a City Block”

  1. Jaye, I didn’t know that Clifford is back on the streets. And so many familiar names…

    It’s good to hear about Woody’s success. Maybe this time will be the charm and he’ll stay sober and happy with his family!!

    I pray for all of you-you for doing your work, and them for being where they are, wherever that is, for the night. Love to you all!

  2. Chris this Clifford isn’t the same Clifford you know…


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