I didn't recognize the man at first, but he remembered me, and when I stuck out my hand to shake, he held it momentarily between both of his. This time he'd brought a woman he'd just met who needed help, maybe a voucher for a hotel for her and her boyfriend?
He reminded me that he'd come by during the holidays. There'd been a festive party going on, and he remembered the decorations, the food I'd brought him to eat, and he even sang a lyric from the song that had been playing. He said, "You all were so nice, everything so pretty. I thought it'd be just fine with me if I'd died right then."
Now I remembered sitting across from him while he ate, hearing a bit of his story. "You'd been jumped by a couple guys," I said. "They'd stolen your backpack."
His false teeth had been in his pack, and it was obvious he hadn't been able to get them replaced. During his first visit, he'd said he could understand that they wanted whatever was in his pack, didn't know they were stealing his teeth--but what really got him was that after they had him down on the ground, they'd kicked him in the side and in the legs. "They were homeless guys themselves," he said, "they know how much you got to be able to walk!"
Now he said, "Yeah, they took my pack with my teeth and my reading glasses too. I used to read a lot before then."
His companion spoke, her words quick and rubbing up against each other: "Ihavesomeglasses.Youcanhavethemifyouwant."
He turned to me, "You gotta listen fast with her. It's the ADD." To her, he said, "Slow down when you talk. People gonna think you're on drugs."
We got around to her story. She said she tried so hard not to look homeless. She didn't have access to a shower; she and her boyfriend were squatting in a warehouse. One of the employees lets them in; the owner doesn't know they're there. "Iheatupwaterinthemicrowave," she said, "andtrytowashfastbeforeitgetscold." When I said I could get them a hotel room for the night, her eyes filled with tears. It was the shower she wanted, more than the bed. "I'mgonnatakealong,long,longshower," she said, laughing.
The man who had brought her had already used a voucher, and I couldn't offer him another. "I told her this was the place to come," he said. "I told her you'd take care of them."
A shower and a listening ear. It was all I could give them, and it was not nearly enough, and they were grateful anyway.