Thursday, January 20, 2011
There’s this guy…
I have written about my fascination with homeless people before, but I have recently realized that they are, in fact, my muses. Not all of homeless people in general. Just certain individuals that catch my attention and get my imagination going nonstop.
I’ve been running into this particular guy for almost four years. The first time happened during the time I was riding public transportation to help the environment. I was at a bus stop sitting on a bench waiting for my ride home when he approached. Despite a bad eye condition and dirty, tattered clothes, I was immediately struck by how young, good looking and stylish he was. He wore all black—pants, t-shirt and leather jacket—and his demeanor was confident and bit feisty. As if saying, “you’re on my bench lady.” Even though I was intimidated, I decided I wasn’t going to be one of those crazy ladies that are afraid of homeless men. So I anchored myself and assumed a confident pose. He smirked and periodically released a chuckle. I became self-conscious and then counteracted with a feisty attitude of my own. It wasn’t his bench. I was entitled to sit on it too. The bus came and I got on. This scenario was repeated a la Groundhog Day over the course of a few weeks.
On one particular occasion, I found him already stretched out on the bench, lounging without a care in the world. There was space, so I sat next to him. I removed my iPod earphones just in case he spoke to me. He smirked, chuckled and laughed. I shot him a taunting look. He looked at a small shopping bag I had with me and asked me if I had food in it. I didn’t. My thoughts seemed to last a lifetime. I thought about what was in the bag. My workplace provides free soda and I had taken a Diet Coke (which I don’t drink often) because I was craving it and I planned to drink it after my evening run. So I decided to tell him I had nothing. But then guilt took over and thought of offering it to him. Then I thought maybe that wasn’t such a good idea. It was a Diet Coke and it would provide him with no nourishment, just a bunch of horrible chemicals. I didn’t want to fuck him up even more. Still, I couldn’t lie to him; he’d have to decide for himself whether he wanted it or not.
I showed him the Diet Coke and he released that damn mocking chuckle. Then he shook his head and took it from me. He cracked it open, leaned back and drank it as if it was a beer. He laughed and shook his head over and over. I wanted to joke and say, “Beggars can’t be choosers you know,” but I chickened out. I got on the bus and made a mental note to carry some snacks with me just in case I ran into him again. I did for a while but I never got the chance to give him something more significant than a can of crap because I stopped taking the bus. (The effects of seeing An Inconvenient Truth wore off and I loathe the bitter Los Angeles bus drivers.)
Now that I drive to work I see him all the time. Mainly dragging his feet in front of the corner Starbuck’s carrying a venti-sized drink. Every time I see him my head fills up with story ideas and I can’t wait to park so that I can jot them down.
I want to buy him a Starbuck’s drink. I want to talk to him. I want to take his picture. I want to get him talking on camera. I want to find out who he was and who he is now. I want to know what happened to him. It’s tricky though. I’m not afraid of him; he doesn’t seem insane or dangerous. But I don’t want to cross that line towards exploitation and I don’t know how to approach the situation. I hope some day I’ll have the guts to approach him and get to know him a little bit before he disappears like the other one.
P.S. That’s not him above. That’s a photo of a Chinese homeless man that became a fashion icon. His story captured my imagination and became the inspiration for a vignette in one of my scripts.