Yeah, I know you’re there… I’d just rather pretend you’re not.
Yeah, you. The elderly woman hiding in a minivan with all your worldly possessions shoved in the back, including a faded photo of your smiling young daughter, taken years and years ago.
You. The underage kid squatting in front of Micky D’s in search of a few tossed coins or, if you’re lucky, a dollar bill. I can’t tell if you’re a boy or a girl. Maybe that’s why your parents kicked you out of your home.
You there. With the tired face that makes you look like you’ve lived for six decades, when in reality you’re only 30. Those damned ghosts of battlefield memories got your mind all screwed up. Mine would be too if the blood of my infantry buddies spilled in front of me day after day.
You, and you, and you. The scared young mother huddled with two tiny kids in a dingy old motel room on the edge of town. You checked in with a fake name so your boyfriend can’t track you down with clenched fists. You scrape by on welfare and food stamps because work is elusive.
Hey, you. You are the image of a dirty old man, and I don’t mean Peewee Herman. I mean the man dragging his feet, head down, on a homelessness-infested street like Skid Row. You smell like alcohol and you certainly haven’t bathed for years.
You’re just a few of the people living on the streets of America.
It’s so much easier to ignore you. And her. And him. And them.
It’s so much easier to ignore you, with my iTunes music blocking out your pleas. Life is simpler cruising home on the freeway in my air-conditioned car, and locking myself in my house with Netflix and Facebook as my diversions.
It’s so much easier for me to blame your situation on other people. Like the government. Or the homeless agency. Or the political party that doesn’t reflect my world view.
Or you. Yes, you, who sleeps on the streets. It’s all your fault.
It’s so much easier to ignore you. To justify my indifference.
But, ironically, in this environment of foreclosures and pink slips, you, who are homeless, are looking more and more like me.
You, the stockbroker. You, the real estate agent. You, the city clerk. The teacher. The secretary. You’re no longer just the alcoholic bum cruising the streets ignoring reality.
You, who are homeless, are now me.
Photo by Nettie Thompson.