Friday, April 25, 2008

Breakfast With Bill

Breakfast With Bill

Homeless, he orders the breakfast burrito and coffee—
and finds it hard to eat with his right hand, with its middle
finger once nearly torn off, and now, the last segment bent at 90 degrees,
and scar tissue everywhere—
battery acid, you know, after the finger tip was nearly torn off at the logging site
on a cold winter’s day.

Unwashed, he’s spent the last four days sleeping
in Methamphetamine World, the apartment dwellers tweaking,
after smoking, after trading their souls for the drug.

“Oh, I slept upright, in a chair, the floor was too dirty for me.”
and his eyes show the strain, and he shakes as he forks more food into his mouth,
and chews thoughtfully, as I ramble on about self esteem and real friends.
Later, he tells me he hadn't had a meal in four days.

His belly now full, hashbrowns stashed in Styrofoam for lunch, we walk a few blocks in the cold spring rain, mixed with snow
to the Salvation Army and the church, and the food bank, as I introduce him
to the folks who can give him food, shelter, maybe a job.

We walk past the fleabag hotel where he hopes to find a room, for $100 a week,
to share with his buddy, who now lives in his car, parked at the park, or down by the river,
these nights when the temperature approaches freezing, and warmth is found
under the pile of one’s clothes, in the back seat.

He speaks of his mother’s contempt for him, wishing he’d go back to jail,
and his girlfriend, who is waiting for their marriage to have sex, and waiting
for him to have his hand surgery, and find a good job, and being able to
move on with his
life.

As we part, I hand him a twenty dollar bill, knowing he will need it for dinner,
and he pulls back, not wanting charity, but the hunger in his eyes says different –
he quickly stashes the bill in his pocket, the rain turning to snow outside.

I make a few phone calls, back in my warm office, my coffee cup full, and knowing
a hot dinner and a clean bed and a hot shower and family await me tonight,
and I wonder,
where he will sleep tonight. He doesn’t show up at the end of the work day, like we’d talked, if he hadn’t
found a place to sleep, and somehow, as the night falls, that is
comforting.

4/2008

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