Damn. He’s back. He’s thinner, a lot thinner to the point of gauntness, he has the yellow cast of jaundice and a weariness that wasn’t there before, or maybe it’s just the loss of hope. I last saw Curt in Starbucks loading bags of sugar into a cup of coffee. It was February and he excitedly told me, “I just wanted to say goodbye, I’ll be leaving in a couple of weeks.” Curt had a black roller bag and slept on the streets, in the doorway of an empty building next to the police station or the doorway of the empty retail space next to the Verizon store. If it was a hard rain, or freezing cold, he’d pay the $5.00 for a night at City Team, the homeless shelter a few blocks over on Washington. When he left, I envisioned they happy ending.
He was gone for 8 months. The empty retail space by Verizon and Starbucks is now a Wine and Design. The doorway in the building by the police station is undergoing renovation for a cannabis dispensary. I met Curt on an early morning dash to Starbucks – I had a 6:00 a.m. conference call. It was freezing cold and he said “I don’t’ me not bother you, but I’m trying to fund raise to get enough to go the shelter.” I know the shelters are $5 and gave him the 8 crumpled bills stuffed in my pocket. Once in Starbucks, I thought, I should have offered to get him a coffee or something, as I grabbed my mobile order. I can be a little late for my meeting. I’ll ask him on my way back. But, he was gone. After that, when I’d see him, we’d chat briefly. He never asked for anything again, but, I’d give him $20 bill if I had it.
Eight months, what happened? This is all about me now; my reaction. Was it naive and shamefully savioristic to think this was someone on the bubble to be saved with an occasional $20? I give to food banks. People running short on cash are going to buy food and end up short on rent. Food banks help, it can be the the one thing that keeps people off the street, I want to believe this is true. My faith is shaken today. I asked Curt, how long he’d been back; he said 4 days. I was really too heartbroken to ask for more.
One of the storytellers, Don Reed, at Snap Judgement back in December told of how he’d been homeless. at UCLA. His scholarship paid for tuition only. He told a story of things you’d thought you’d never do, like stealing a book to buy food. Surviving on little sleep, improvisation and lot of hope. His was a story of resilience and triumph to become the award winning story teller, actor and comedian he is today.
I believe in magic – pixie dust; something special when you least expect it. In the middle of the week your mom cooks breakfast for dinner; a snow day, going out to the movies in the middle of the week. I try to make magic, something seemingly random show up in the mail and for a brief moment there is magic for the receiver – something unexpected, a happy surprise and a smile, But, this is real life outside a bubble. Outside of a world I can control and by sheer will. I realize maybe the loss of hope I saw in Curt was really a reflection of my loss of hope and the end of magic.