Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Benchwarmer of My Dreams

As many members of my social orbit already know, I have a longstanding crush on a homeless man. I usually cross his path twice a day, most days each week. He’s devastatingly handsome and has a varsity athlete’s physique. At times, he looks slightly preppy or bohemian-chic. So much so that when I first saw him, I didn’t realize he was homeless – I thought he was just resting. He was serenely sitting on a bench, with his bicycle and oversized knapsack propped up close-by. I initially took his bag of bottles and cans for a progressively-minded recycling effort.

I don’t know this hottie’s name, but he looks like a “Hal.” I can tell that he likes me too, but we’re both still sane enough to understand that the two of us could never work out. Nonetheless, I’ll always remember the night he slowly rode his bike alongside me for a couple of blocks as we joked around about our days and the weather conditions, giggling; and the genuine concern he displayed the day I told him that I had recently been hit by somebody else’s bike.

He’s such a loner. Whenever a small band of tourists comes into and sticks around his area for too long, he usually goes for a little walk, presumably staying away until they’ve left. I once saw another homeless fellow (a real crazy-acting motherfucker) plop down on a neighboring bench. At which point, Hal (with a nobly put-out expression on his proud, cherubic face) summarily picked up all of his shit and booked it straight out of there. Which is totally something I would do.

For a homeless person, his grooming is impeccable. He clearly has somewhere to go (a shelter or the like) where he semi-regularly showers and shaves and changes his clothes. But he doesn’t stay there for long. In the dead of winter, he’ll be pensively sitting out in the post-blizzard snow. Or lying sound asleep, stretched out on a bench, beneath one or two ratty comforters, trusting passersby to not abscond with his bike or plastic bags full of glass and aluminum. I’ve often wondered why, especially in the bitter cold, he chooses to stay outside so often. I bet it’s at least partially because of the way he looks. I’ve heard that homeless shelters aren’t the safest of places and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that young pretty boys face the same lot in there as they do in the general prison population.

I don’t know anything about his educational or professional background; but, as a default plan, he could be a formidable catalog model if he just caught a break. I see him working it for J. Crew. Or L.L. Bean or REI, since he’s such an outdoors enthusiast. I’ve thought about snapping a candid shot of him with my CVS-brand disposable camera and sending it to one of these retailers. But would he have to move to Maine or a state of its ilk? Would he want to? Would all of his relocation expenses be covered?

A lot of the homeless men in NYC are first-rate assholes. Especially the homeless men of color who interact with non-homeless women of color - the men in this abuse-inflicting subset seem to be under the impression that we have an especial obligation to take care of them and empty out our wallets every time we come across their roosts. I’m not sure where they got that idea, but I don’t think much of it. I’ve contributed some of my pocket change to more than a few of them – and, in response, several have all but scoffed that it simply wasn’t enough. Hal doesn’t behave like this. Always respectfully unassuming, he’s never once asked me for money (or for anything else).

The point worth driving home is how ordinary he looks and acts. He’s attractive and articulate and self-possessed and comes off as eminently well-raised. It’s like dealing with someone I would have gone to school with. Maybe it’s all a fa├žade and he’s out on the streets because he’s a bad guy who’s betrayed his loved ones via too many drugs or raging psychopathology or something worse. But maybe it’s his loved ones who have betrayed him. Maybe his immediate family members are dead, his relatives unaccounted for, and his once-supposed close friends have all sold him out.

Maybe none of us are quite as immune from rock-bottom as we may wishfully think.

No comments:

Post a Comment