I was returning home from a late-night class in the city. There was a man sitting hunched over in the corner of 23rd street station, by 6th avenue. From his clothes I could tell that he’ll spend the night right there, on the platform.
I didn’t notice “the homeless” in New York all these years. May be, I grew more aware of the condition when I lived in Los Angeles for 5 months last year.
The sidewalks in California are usually empty, while the four-lane highways right next to them, overflow with speedsters. The only people you see on them every day have no where else to go.
In New York, it’s the opposite. The streets are usually full of so many pedestrians, that a man leaning on a cane on a crowded platform will be of concern to no one.
I noticed him because he was trying so desperately to make eye contact in a city full of strangers trying to avoid eye-contact.
He did not want money. He just felt like talking. I listened to him, trying to look at life from the streets—his home.
This is his story:
“I got this cane from VA hospital. As a matter of fact, I don’t know how I got to the hospital. I got hurt on my hand. It was bad. It healed now. That’s where they must have fixed it.Stranger on the Street, 23rd Street Station, Manhattan, 24th February 2020, 11.10 pm
I remember meeting a nurse there. Her name was Veronica. She was nice. She spoke to me, like people used to speak to me back in the day. I also remember a man named Reiko. He was 23. He died, you know. He was so young. A baby. I was confused and sad why he died so young?
I don’t think we get to decide how long we live. It’s all up to God. He decides when we come and when we go. Once he has decided, no matter how young or old, no matter how happy or sad—we must go.
Do you talk to your God? I should not say “your God.” I don’t think your god is different from my god. They all have different names, but it’s just one God.
I think we should all talk to God. He is always listening. Even when we think he is not. Trust me.
Do you talk to God?
God brought me my niece, to talk to me, when she found out I was at the VA hospital. She came all the way from Philadelphia. She got me a Philly steak. She split it in two. We shared it and ate it together.
Isn’t she damn sweet? She is my sister’s daughter. My sister is long gone. My niece, she still came all the way from Philly, to see me.