" I haven't seen you for a long time."
As I approach the homeless encampment, I see all the familiar signs. There are clothes strewn about the ground. There are wrappers from sweet treats eating in haste and discarded by the user. There are cardboard boxes folded flat. There are old couch cushions. This is clearly an area where someone has set up house.
" I haven't seen you in years!" I hastily reply as I dart around the corner.
I am attempting to catch the next train out of the shit hole that I use to call my home. I need to get home before the tofurky starts to thaw that i have placed in my back pack. Tofurky- a "roast" made out of meat substitutes is a tradition for me. Now that both my parents are gone, I have started to create my own legacy for my children to grasp on to long after I have left the Earth.
I recognized the face. The face was that of an older black man. His eyes have glazed over with time, almost a greyish color. The bags under his eyes have been a prominent feature in the twenty or so years I have seen this man. There are places and moments in our lives that remind us of how much we have changed- positively or negatively- since last had a witness. This man, in his peacoat and his beanie cap, has been the witness to many moments in my life.
When I first came to San Francisco, I was a naive child in what I thought was an adult body. I quickly learned that my use of opiates required a level of dedication that keep me busy day and night. When I wasn't nodding in a doorway, I was out in the street searching for the ways and means to get drugs. I would walk past this man. I did not pay him any attention because he had nothing to offer me. I needed chivah. I needed money. I needed you to get me well. I was a dramatic young addict on the search for a high.
I passed by this man a few years later. I was tweaking my brains out. I had seen him a million times or at least a thousand or maybe I saw him or maybe it was the police fuck. I don't fucking know. Stop asking me questions. Anyways. yeah. About that. I saw the fucking guy. I think I did see him. Who?.. Fuck.
I passed by this man again. Chivah, Chivah, Chivah. Bring me a few clients and I will kick you down bro. You know that I am selling now, homey. No, I don't have a dollar. I got to put all this money into the re-up. The quicker you can bring me a few people, the quicker I can help you okay?
The next time I saw him, things had changed dramatically for me. I was living in a sober living house in the Tenderloin. I lived RIGHT were I used only six months prior to moving into my new place. As the crack heads and the dope heads and the families shuffle by, I realize I need to make a decision. I am standing with my back to the wall. I have on my hooded sweatshirt, my Ben Davis pants and shirt. My hat is turned backwards and I am ready for business. Am I selling? No. I need to head to aftercare.This is all a conversation in my mind. Truly, no one gives two fucks out here if I make it or if I use today. I pass by the man. He is in the doorway. I have never seen him use drugs. He always smiles at me.
I moved away from the Tenderloin. I would see him from time to time for my jobs. I would give him my left over food or buy him something when I could do it. He would always be grateful for someone that stopped and acknowledged his face. I remember what that was like to have someone see me as i stop by my shopping cart. For a moment, I was more than a homeless junkie. I was a person.
I saw him today. I guess he set up camp in the Mission. He also left behind the Tenderloin. I suppose he is in the sixties now. The streets are rough and people are ruthless in the area we both called home. He had another young girl sitting with him. She had her hat on backwards. She was sitting half way in the crosswalk. Obviously, this is her area. She can have this place. I am fucking done with all this shit sweetie. You can have it.
He never asks me for a dollar. He has never asked me for drugs. He has just witnessed the past twenty years of my life and he is still happy to see me.