Monday, March 05, 2007

Realizing the Lucky Me

I was just thinking: the worst part about being homeless has to be the fact that you are stuck with an annoying invisible friend. I have never seen a homeless guy walking down the street in the middle of a pleasant conversation with their invisible friend. Instead, they always seem to be stuck in the middle of some really intense hostile debate that they are losing. That has to really suck more than we can imagine.

I am not implying that every homeless person is saddled with the annoying invisible friend by any means. I have seen plenty of homeless people completely lucid and aware without the slightest hint of an imaginary companion, but I have never seen one with a friendly specter friend. I have yet to see someone walking down the street all alone shouting “you are right man!” I have never seen someone give half of a high-five to no one. There seems to be no Casper for the homeless.

Perhaps we need a homeless dating service or something to help their plight. Being homeless is hard enough without the loneliness and isolation. I assume at least half of those homeless are suffering from some form of mental illness that only grows stronger and more severe as they spend time on the streets away from caring people. Medication does help, but having people to talk to always helps so much more.

This is on my mind today because I just saw the cliché homeless man walking past me while on a smoke break. He was one of those elderly men who has obviously been alone and unsheltered for quite some time. His hair was a single giant dreadlock and his beard had at least a good three shades of color to it: two his natural color and the rest only G-d knows. He was in the midst of a very intense argument in his babbling bum language and, as he passed me I found myself looking at the ground to avoid eye contact.

Why did I avoid eye contact with this man? Did I fear his plight would leap from him onto me? Was it easier for me to go about my happy day if I did not see him? Is there anything I could have done for him if I had seen him or is this just what we tell ourselves? I will never know because I did nothing as he walked past me except think of a few jokes I heard about homeless people talking to no one. The main one was that all homeless people were telekinetic and were actually having conversations with other homeless people in other states. Amazing the things we do to avoid the pain we should feel sometimes, isn’t it?


Serena Joy said...

I, too, tend to avoid eye contact with the homeless, and I don't know why. When it happens, I'll later feel bad about it and remind myself that it could be me. A lot of different things can happen to cause someone to be so down on his luck. Maybe that's why it's so uncomfortable -- the realization that it COULD be me.

Kanrei said...

I was reading this after posting it and was thinking it made me sound cold and evil. Thank you for letting me know it is not just my reaction. I tend to think the same thing- it could be me very easily. It only takes one screw-up to counter years of doing the right thing and does not even have to be your screw-up. You could be doing everything right and still end up homeless. It is a fear I thnk we all have.

Kanrei said...

I also wonder if it is our turning away that adds to their delusion. Maybe so many people act like they are not there they start to question their own existence. Maybe they talk to themselves because no one else will talk to them. Maybe over years you forget there is no one listening.

Serena Joy said...

It only takes one screw-up to counter years of doing the right thing and does not even have to be your screw-up. You could be doing everything right and still end up homeless. It is a fear I thnk we all have.

I think perhaps that's what frightens us all on some level -- that it "could" happen so easily. And yet, I sometimes wonder "how" people can fall so low. I know that if I lost my job, I'm not too proud to flip burgers if I had to, to keep a roof over my head. That leads me to wonder what percentage of the homeless actually have mental or other problems that make them unhireable.

Maybe they talk to themselves because no one else will talk to them. Maybe over years you forget there is no one listening.

That's a profound statement and I'm sure there's a great deal of truth in it. I would think that after a time of being treated as though you're invisible, you might begin to believe you are invisible.

littlebirdblue said...

First of all, Kanrei,I think you've got an amazing idea for a speculative fiction story here, what with the annoying invisible friends.

Second, I go out of my way to avoid eye contact with strange men, PERIOD. Always. I'm not going to apologize for distancing myself from random dudes I don't know. In my experience, strange guys--no matter if they're wearing business suits or sheriff's uniforms or last week's supper down the front of their shirts--are more likely to behave inappropriately or make you feel uncomfortable than not.

They might ask you for dates or money or to accept jesus as your personal saviour--or they just leer, stink, or treat you like a servant or act like you're a hooker...or whatever.

There's a real danger making eye contact with strange men in the street. I'm sorry to say most women have experienced this fact at multiple times in their lives. The homeless dudes in Portland used to verbally abuse me EVERY DAY on my way to and from work because I wouldn't acknowledge them calling out to me when I passed through their 'hangout' areas.

Screw that sh*t.

And even if you were homeless, that would never be you.

RexZeitgiest said...

The homeless can be dangerous....If they are an adult man, I steer way clear of them....Seattle is full of agressive, violent, street bums.....

If it is a person under the age of 21 or a female, my reaction is different......

I always try and remember, But for the grace of god it could be anyone of us....

Kanrei said...

Check out my "Charlie" story. I tried that, but lost my way. I am going to try again because I like the concept of the story, just not where I went with it.

I have had homeless friends in the past. I realize most can be dangerous (especially the one's talking to themselves), just seeing him made me think about what causes a person to give up or were they just that beaten by life.

Miami is not known for its violent bums, quite the opposite. Our bums tend to get beaten by our youth. That said, this guy was probably one of the more dangerous ones since he was talking to himself violently. I would have probably avoid eye contact with him every time, but I still felt the guilt of doing it. Stupid liberal guilt!

Kanrei said...

Here is a link Birdie to the Charlie story.

littlebirdblue said...

sorry, Kanrei--

I just read your story and left my rsponse on your next post.