People were confronting each other in front of my apartment yesterday.
It happened twice, in two events that seemed connected, but I didn’t know how to connect them…
First, a police pickup truck drove past me on my way to the grocery store. It screeched to a halt at the intersection. Standing at the corner were two shady looking gentleman – the kind that make me change streets at night – with long shirts, backwards caps, and silver chains.
The car doors swung open and the police saddled out, machine guns swinging from their chests.
They confronted the two men with backwards caps. They chatted for a hot second before the cops lifted up their shirts and looked around their belts – no pistols. The police seemed satisfied.
One of the men pointed to the bus stop when asked where they were going. The cops nodded and gave a little wave, then got back in the truck and drove away.
The backwards caps were smiling as they passed by me.
I went to the grocery store. I thought about profiling and stereotypes. I thought about how I cross the street when I see people dressed like that. I bought chips, spaghetti, and broccoli.
As I returned to my apartment and peered through the wire gate, someone was across the street.
It was the tall homeless man. Everyone knew him – black goatee, thin as a rail, always talking to himself, running between traffic. Folks gave him free haircuts and clothes. He lived off leftovers offered to him.
I’d only ever had one personal interaction with the man, but I saw him every day downtown. Now he sat under an awning as the rain began. He had his knees tucked up under his chin. He rocked back and forth, muttering a monologue under his breath.
A heavy-set man walked by with his thin friend. They were obviously wealthy and in a good mood. The large man stopped, suddenly, and reached into his pocket for some cash. The thin man looked back over his shoulder.
He offered the money to the homeless man, bending down as if to place it in a hat. The homeless man became scared and shied away. The grin faded from the wealthy men’s faces. The homeless man continued to cower in the corner.
Confused, and feeling awkward, the wealthy men stowed their cash and returned to their stroll. I stared for a moment and then returned to my apartment.
I closed the door behind me. Thoughts of generosity, inequality, and dignity went through my head. I put the broccoli in the fridge and the spaghetti on the counter. I opened the bag of chips and sat down.
As I munched on chips, I thought about the police and the wealthy men. I thought about the backwards caps and the homeless man. The two events seem connected, I thought to myself, but I don’t know how to connect them.
I should write a blog about this, I decided, with some grand conclusion that makes sense of it all…