The sun is below the horizon and
light wispy clouds glow with
soft hues of red and orange.
I look down at my feet and
then pick myself up,
it's time to go.
In every direction people are
walking. Fast, like the world is
gonna leave them behind.
Important looking people, wearing
slender shoes and high heels. They look
straight ahead as they go, and
the traffic stops for them.
I grab my bag, heavy with
stuff, and step off.
They walk around me as if
I am a plague. I see them
coming, I try to find a kind
face but there are none so
I keep walking. My legs
ache, my muscles refuse
to move faster and my bag
is so heavy. My head feels
like a lead balloon that floats
with great effort.
12th and Mass. The ****** patrol
here at night, but now it's just
the walkers. A woman brushes past to make
the light, wiping her hand on her pants as
she does so.
I must have a disease. Everyone else
can see it and it disgusts
them. Maybe it's written on
my face, but I don't know.
My arm aches as I cross the
street, so I set my bag on the
sidewalk and rub my resentful
Look in the trashcan, dig down
a little bit. A half-eaten burger
shines through the trash. Dig
a little further. The rats have
A man walks by, slowly towing a
small elderly dog behind
him. He has a kind face, shining blue
eyes that seek to connect without
speaking a word. He softly coaxes
the dog along with one hand while
holding two more in the other.
Everyone sees the tiny dogs. They turn
their heads, stop, crouch down, and
make baby noises at
creatures worth more than me.
I am surrounded by people but I
am not among them. I am the
vermin they can't get rid of but
wish didn't exist. Even the
pigeons are more welcome than I.
Yet I remain, unable to go
unable to stay.
The man walks by with the
old dog in tow; he looks at me and
I feel my power return. To be human
is not a permanent condition, but
a look from a stranger can
bring it back for a moment.
I ask him for money, spare change,
anything. He says he doesn't have
anything, but he's sorry, and
I pet the old dog.
Be gentle, says the man,
he's nearly blind, deaf,
and a bit senile. I pet
the old dog, his back hunched
and stiff, and he pushes his
body into my hand.
The small creature gazes at me
through cloudy eyes, wags his tail, and
lets out a grunt. For just a moment
The wind on my face brings me back
and once again I'm surrounded by the walkers.
Cross the street, walk to Gompers Park,
or is it Compers?
The statue is imposing, and it blocks the
wind. The trees look inviting, but the
rats own those. So I lay out my blanket on the
top step and settle in.
The sun has totally disappeared,
the sky is dark but also not.
The traffic grinds on and the
people walk everywhere, but I am
Me and that dog and the
man with the kind face.
I wrote this sitting on a step in front of my apartment in Washington D.C. I saw a homeless man struggling with his bag, stuffed full of all of his belongings, to cross the street, and everyone looking past him.