Guilty!

He had great legs. I couldn't help but notice them as he walked up the street. Couldn't avoid noticing really. He was obviously homeless, carrying his life around in what looked, from my vantage point in the passenger seat of our Forester, like a laundry bag.

I don't remember his face, though Fuzzy said later that he was bearded. Don't remember his shirt – though I know he was wearing one. A sweatshirt I think. I vaguely recall it being the dusty blue of a faded sweatshirt. The kind of blue that usually reminds me of summering by the shore, and wearing carefully faded rolled-neck sweaters against the chill.

I remember the way he peered up one street, and then slipped round a building to walk up the other. And I remember glimpsing legs, lean, strong, brown from the sun, and possibly a lack of washing.

He wore khaki shorts over sweatpants nearly the same color. Or, rather, they were sweatpants once upon a time. Now they're mostly holes and frayed edges.

But the thing that made me go home and clean out the closet; the thing that pushed me into the guilt that I often feel when I see street folk, was that his feet, inside his blue sneakers, were bare.

I had an urge to run across the street, and tell him to hang out at OSH at dawn, if he wanted to work as a day laborer. I had an urge to invite him to use our shower, to offer a hot meal.

I had an urge to hand him a pair of socks, freshly laundered, bleached to blinding white. I can imagine how soft cotton must feel on such mal-treated feet, how the whitewhite cloth would look against the tanned skin of his calf.

I did none of this things.
“That homeless guy,” I said to Fuzzy. “He had great legs.”

They're walking across my memory even now.

CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 Guilty! by Melissa Bartell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.