City of Mine
July 21, 2006
Yesterday I had a meeting down in Georgetown -- the part of Georgetown where foot traffic kind of dies and there isn't a beauty product to be purchased for several blocks. I took the bus, because I am Industrious and Independent, and as I was walking (okay, more like tottering gingerly over the cobblestones in my stupidly high heels) towards my destination I passed a man who had just parked his car.
A very nice, newish Acura. With leather interior. And Virginia plates.
He unloaded some milk crates from his trunk onto a little hand truck.
The milk crates were stuffed full of newspapers and plastic grocery bags.
A cardboard sign and a beat-up Big Gulp cup were attached to the crates with a bungee cord.
As he stepped away to feed the meter, I got a better look at the sign.
HOMELESS VET. HUNGRY PLEASE HELP. GOD BLESS.
I stopped and stared at him. He was wearing ripped jeans and several flannel shirts despite the broiling heat and humidity. I watched him swipe a credit card through the high-tech meter, pocket his receipt and then merrily make his way up M St., up to where the sidewalks are a sea of shopping bags and outstretched cups of change, with the hand truck bumping and clattering on the sidewalk behind him. He didn't care at all that I had seen it all and was still standing by his car, staring after him. I think he started whistling.
I didn't know whether to yell at him or call him an asshole or indignantly snap a camera phone picture of him, or his car, or his license plate, or what.
I just walked away instead. It really wasn't anything I didn't already kind of know. It was just concrete evidence for a working theory.
Later, while waiting for the bus home, another man approached me. He was dirty and smelled bad. He asked for a quarter for food, and the fingernails on his extended hand were long and crusty and yellow.
I gave him a dollar. He said God bless and kind of bowed. Then he walked away, whistling.