Saturday, November 20, 2004


I had forgotten about this guy: the skinny, bearded and long-haired blond with clothes suggesting hippiedom more than homelessness. Perhaps it was his mildly insolent way of asking for money, less like a man wondering where he’d sleep that night and more like a boy reminding you he’s owed his allowance — and needs your keys and the car. Now.

For whatever reason, I never gave money when he haunted me daily from his pacing grounds by the Porter Square Dunkin’ Donuts. (I tend to restrict my handouts to Spare Change vendors, older folk, the disabled and the convincingly piteous, with the edge to black people for reasons of unresolved white guilt.) He disappeared without my noticing about a year ago, and now, I think, he’s back.

Or is he? The past several months, he’s gained a lot of weight. He’s comfortably bloated, enough to make me doubt he’s the same guy, and in Harvard Square, not Porter, and it almost seems that his receding hairline has rethought its recession. But the clothes are strongly familiar, and the attitude is a dead ringer — in fact, this fellow stood a meter from me for several seconds while I was making a phone call near the Out of Town Newsstand, despite my waving him off and quite clearly shaking my head at him, relatively politely for someone in the midst of a phone call. (Did it not occur to him that his chances for success might be better if he didn’t ask for money while his sucker is on the phone? I would never suggest that a homeless person didn’t have places to rush off to, but it seems useless to rush into certain rejection rather than delay a potential payoff.)

What convinced me he is the same man is that he stayed there, a few feet from me, despite my rejection. His answer was to swing his arms out by his hips, widen his eyes the tiniest bit, match it with a minimal tilt to the head, shake it back at me quizzically and try again: I know you’re still on the phone and have already turned me down, but I find it difficult to understand why you’re not giving me your money, and thus will continue standing here challengingly in the expectation that you will be shamed into remembering that, after all, you owe me.

I don’t blame him that he’s offering nothing, such as a Spare Change; I don’t blame him for being a hippie, white, young, healthy-looking or even far fatter than he was. The tubercular look, while a good sales technique, is not something I can wish on anyone.

If anything, I blame him for radiating menace without humor, which, in combination with his apparent growing good health, makes him one of the only homeless people — if he is that — that I’ve ever resisted so fully. Well, it’s beyond resistance. He’s the only one that has ever made me say to myself: “I’ll burn in hell, my testicles fried and fed me, before I give him money.”

No comments: