Friday, May 16, 2008

i think it was the fourth of july

He's in the park, she said, this nameless woman calling out for help. I see him there every day. Every day for years and I don't know what to do. He's always in the park. This isn't right. Can't someone help? I know this cry, someone somewhere needs to do something. Someone. Somewhere. Do Something.

I hear this and pause. Search and rescue crosses my mind, the notion of a St. Bernard with little barrel flask around his neck, I think of snow for some reason which makes no sense. One of us, one of our tribe who never says no he goes and he goes cheerfully. Let me just check it out and see what's what, he says. And he goes to that park.

A few hours later there's an update. This man in the park. No shit, he's been outside a very long time. But for some reason today is our lucky day. He comes with my friend and he goes inside. He's eating, my friend says. He sure is hungry. I've got him settled and he'll stay here for the weekend and then we'll go from there. But you know, it's crazy. He's a vet and he says he's been outside for 20 years.



And for some reason I feel like crying.



This was a week ago and yesterday I meet this man from the park, my co-worker brought him to meet me and with a look he tells me silently it's the guy, the guy from the park. He's bronze, so bronze he's leather, his eyes are kind and his teeth are shattered. I shake his hand and tell him I'm so happy he's with us and he shakes mine back and agrees. The three of us talk for a few minutes and I like this guy, I like him a lot. There's a sense you get and your first instinct usually sticks, because there are no pretenses unless there are and you spot those a mile away and it's fine but then it's different and there were no pretenses here. As he leaves he surprises me and leans over and hugs me and so I hug him back this bronze man from the park and I have to ask why did you finally come inside after all this time? And he looks at me and says well you know because he asked me to. And I can't help but wonder if that meant in all that time no one else had.

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23 comments:

kristen said...

i've seen those bronzed park dwellers and they are truly almost petrified, they've been outside for so long.

"and I have to ask why did you finally come inside after all this time? And he looks at me and says well you know because he asked me to. And I can't help but wonder if that meant in all that time no one else had."

i could have a good long cry over this.

Blog Antagonist said...

It means that human being really suck sometimes. I'm glad you asked.

Little Monkies said...

When I read this, J, it socked me right between the eyes. The literal and the figurative of living outside, being accustomed to what we know, without someone to call us to something else. People missing each other's needs by assuming that the one outside is there because he wants to be. It's deep shit and leaves me with a very strange feeling in my heart that I'm not sure how to handle.

Hugs to you. I needed this. Way humbling.

Sober Briquette said...

thank you, this reminded me to look up an article about the homeless vets' group home that I missed in the paper.

ms chica said...

It's always someone's responsibility isn't it? Why shouldn't we all be someone?

A solution which hinges on such a simple gesture, to be asked.

Julie Pippert said...

You know, this sounds like another case of the misuse of the idea of personal responsibility, in a way. Another intersection---such a theme for me this week---where two ideas of responsibility collided.

He was waiting to be asked in, and everyone else was wondering why he didn't accept the open door.

Jen, as always, what a wonderful reminder that sometimes we just have to check it out, out loud.

Hetha said...

I'd like to give you a hug too.

hele said...

I'm so glad you asked.

flutter said...

I mean does calvets do nothing?

Magpie said...

No one asked him to? No one asked him to!

Heartbreaking.

Amy Y said...

I'm glad your friend asked... I want to cry, too.

Oh, The Joys said...

Speechless at the notion...

marymurtz said...

My heart just broke a little.

crazymumma said...

Fuck me. Twenty Years. A Vet no less. All those Vets. All those parades for all the Vets. I never hear mention of homeless vets in parades.

I dunno why I am thinking of parades. Oh yeah. Cause if we have a parade we think we have done our job in honouring them for the year and we can go back to ignoring the issue of why they are now homeless.

honestly. this world is a puzzling place.

meno said...

Somebody. Somewhere. Do Something.

Let it be us.

Mrs. Chicken said...

I am always grateful for these stories, as hard as they are for me to read and for you and their subjects to live.

The place I live now is so sanitized, so homogeneous, that it is easy to forget how much pain is out there and how heavy is the responsibility. Because it is ALL of our responsibility.

Thank you, Jen. I might be quiet lately, but I am always listening and trying to do better because of you.

xoxoxo

painted maypole said...

a veteran. outside for 20 years. because no one invited him in. while all these hypocrites drive around with "support our troups" ribbons on their cars. it's just terrible.

Ally said...

Wow.

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cce said...

It's so human...this just needing to be asked, this needing to know someone gives a damn. I'm so glad for this man that there is you and there is your tribe.

Meg said...

Sometimes we forgot to ask the simplest things.
There's a lesson for me here, I think.

maggie, dammit said...

My God.

You know what? I really bet no one ever did ask him. I really bet that's true.

bgirl said...

whoa...
the stories you share.
perspective is an understatement.
compassion, deeply needed and you giving it deeply.