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I heard someone call my name in the distance, perhaps in my subconscious. It was still an early March morning and I was on my way to the Tuesday prayer meeting with the Trinity Grace worship team. I paid the call no mind, proceeding toward 5th ave and taking in the Korean milieu of 32nd street.

Then again, "Gio!"

This time I stopped and looked across the street to see my old friend Joe sitting in his usual manner - but not in his usual spot. He said the police had made him move, so now he sat on the sidewalk outside the post office near Herald Square. I had long wondered how he held up through the winter, as the last I saw him was in November. We checked in briefly, but I couldn't stay long as I was running late. He was gone by the time I was headed home.

I saw him again a week or two later, on the way home from another meeting, and stopped to catch up with him a bit more. He said he had spent much time lately at the Bellevue shelter, a men's intake facility on 30th street. He was meeting with a social worker there who was to put him up in the city, provided he comply with certain guidelines. Submission. Obedience. He seemed pretty confident about the prospect, even indicating it was rare to find a shelter he liked.

For the next month I peeked across the street in the early mornings, hoping to see him there, to hear news of his housing status. Finally I spotted him a week ago, sitting outside the post office with a cigar hanging from his lips. I crossed the street toward him with a greeting, shook his hand, and knelt beside him. He began to tell me of his night and morning, about having come from somewhere in Long Island. Or maybe Forrest Hills, Queens. I could hardly understand his mumbling guttural drawl.

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I changed the subject, asking about Bellevue. He said it didn't work out; he doesn't like conforming to eating schedules, curfews, rules, rules, rules. This I understand. He told me that he was now talking with the VA instead (WHAT! Joe is an army vet! I had no idea, though I suppose I could have guessed…) He said they were going to find him a place to stay somewhere in Manhattan.

A young guy walked up and dropped a $10 bill in Joe's can without a word or even so much as a look. He spun back and walked off as quickly as he'd come. Joe's thanks followed him down the sidewalk. 

Joe then asked how I'm doing myself. I told him about my musical endeavors and various projects. Meanwhile I noticed Joe's clothes - a dirty shirt, black shoes and socks soaked with rain, and pants rolled halfway up his calves. It was not raining just then, but it was in the forecast all week. He explained that his shoes were perfectly designed to drain rain water out - the fabric had pulled free from the soles nearly all the way around.

"Where do you go when it rains?" I asked.

"Subway stations. Or below scaffolding," he responded as he scratched his legs and crotch. Another man approached and handed him a folded dollar bill. Joe thanked him and dropped it casually in his shirt pocket.

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"What time is it?" He asked. "I'm going down to the liquor store at 10 to get some vodka."

Ah, yes. Breakfast.

Joe's nearly-bald spotty scalp still bleeds in some places. It always makes me cringe when I look… or even recall it. I don't have the courage to ask him about it. Still, it needs prayer.

"I'm going to the Hamptons when it warms up."

"Oh yea? What's in the Hamptons?" I ask him.

"A lot of stuff."

Indeed.


By: Gio Andollo

 



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