As I am driving to work I see an old man hunched over a walker on the sidewalk. His pants are dripping with diarrhea. He moves a few feet then stops to rest, as if he is winding down for the count.
I park a few blocks up the road and walk back to find the man, who has barely moved. I simply ask him if there is any way I can help him. He asks for some change. I give him the seven dollars I have on me.
“Can I help you get somewhere to clean up? Can I give you a ride? You can use my shower.”
“I don’t have any other pants.”
“Can I get you some pants?”
“Are you sure I can’t help in some other way, anything?”
He looked like a man who would excel at a Santa Claus role. His bright blue eyes only looked up on a few occasions, and only then momentarily. They were beautiful eyes full of sadness and pain and pride and shame and a million little splinters that hacked their way into my head forever.
I told him where he might be able to get some pants for a few bucks nearby. But I doubt they would let him in the place like that. As would nowhere else. He is alone out there. And he is likely dehydrated and at severe risk of immediate health issues.
I feel like I saw a ghost, a dead man just politely waiting for me to walk away so he could finish dying.
And there are no options here. Calling the police puts him at risk of more problems, fatal and long term. There are no alternative initiatives in the community for this sort of thing that does not involve the authorities. This is what the monopoly on community services by policing does.
And then there is his stupid pride and refusal to accept my help. Likely a lifetime of toxic masculinity messages and that bullshit stoicism have been preventing him for years from getting the help he needs. And now he has become beyond all of that help, and is shuffling around downtown covered in his own feces with seven dollars that will be incinerated as bio-waste when the poor old fool drops off.
These tears are for you, my friend.