I am beginning a series of short stories, I have been curious for some time about what brings someone to living on the streets. I have been curious about their stories. Here is my first “interview”
When I ask him where he sleeps, he says the manager at Wilco lets him sleep in the alcove as long as he is gone when they open and leaves the area clean. But he only goes there if he really needs shelter, he does not want to wear out his welcome. He has several places he goes. He use to sleep in the bushes next to a small lake nearby, but they cleared out all the brush. He says “We lost a lot when that happened, but it is beautiful there now.” He loves walking that area and seeing the improvements and how nice it is now.
I ask if I can take his picture, he looks down and shakes his head no. I tell him it’s okay, I tell him I am working on a project but I can tell his story without a picture of him. He tells me that he does not want people to make fun of him. He said people think bad about him and don’t even know him.
He tells me about people who drive by and scream at him to get a job, he tells me he wants to work. He would do anything, pull a few weeds, wash windows, then he shows me his hand. Half healed wounds, still weeping, cover his first two fingers, I could tell stitches that were needed never happened, the wounds looked like they had been very deep, I imagine from a knife. He told me they had been infected, he found some place to soak them in salt water, he cried like a baby. He told me it is still painful but he just works at odd jobs anyway. “You just have to grit your teeth and do it.” He tells me he is just a man looking to do small jobs for a little money.
As we are talking he is waving and smiling at the cars going by. One stops with a bag of cans, I tell him goodbye..
As he walks away he looks back over his shoulder “God bless you”.
What struck me was his lack of bitterness, his peaceful demeanor. He seems anxious to talk about himself but not too sure about sharing. At one point during our conversation he looked at me and said, “You know I could still fall in love, probably not today, but maybe tomorrow”. The one thing Eddie has not lost is his hope.
(P.S. I returned later with some Neosporin, disinfecting wipes, and bandages. He was surprised, his eyes misted a little.)