Homeless

Standing in line for soup and bread
Hoping tonight the downtown mission has a bed
Dreaming about the home they thought they'd never lose
Sleeping on benches covered by the daily news
People who pass them by just turn their heads
Making them feel like they've been left for dead
Under the red, white and blue
Right down the street from our pew
We're not doing all we can do
To shelter the homeless few
Shelter the homeless few*

He was perhaps 30 years old, though his weathered skin might have made him look older than his years. He wore brown sweatpants, old, with holes that exposed most of the length of his thighs. I couldn't help looking at his legs – they were strong, healthy, sexy in a way that disturbed me, because they were also grey from road dust and lack of regular access to showers.

He carried a canvas pack. More than a duffel, less than a knapsack, though, I think knapsack is trully the correct word. He smiled at people who passed him on the street, but I saw his smile fade when they looked the other way, refusing to see him, refusing to acknowledge that even sunny California has homeless people wandering the street.

My friend and I paused, she watching the light, I riveted by this man who managed to smile, even while being pointedly ignored. If I'd been alone, I think I'd have flirted with him. In fact, we both did, a little, when he approached us on the corner of Haight and Paige, and asked, in perfect French, if we had spare change.

My friend and I looked at each other, and I shrugged. She turned back to him, “We don't have change,” she said, her blue eyes twinkling. “We just did laundry, but if you ask us in Italian, we'll give you a dollar.”

I glared at her, but she held firm. And he repeated the question, in Italian that was nearly as flawless as his French had been. She told me to give him a dollar, but I didn't. I slipped him a ten, and met his eyes, and smiled.

In French, I wished him luck.
In silence, I wished him warmth, safety, and a hot bath.

*”Homeless Few,” Petra
This song picked by Fuzzy.

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