I’m the first person to hand over a bit of cash to the less fortunate, even succumbing to liberal guilt on occasion and emptying my wallet of reasonably large denominations. And while some would rather save their money for fear of subsidizing addiction, I actively encourage such habits, as a life on the street quite reasonably necessitates being as numb as possible. Will my small contribution help acquire a liquid breakfast? Undoubtedly, and I’ve never judged anyone for it. More than that, I’ve recognized that homelessness is the direct result of inadequate drug and alcohol treatment, the ravages of mental illness, and the scars of war. Increasingly, as children begin to make up a larger and larger percentage of the homeless population, I reconsider even further, probing such diverse issues as the minimum wage, physical and sexual abuse, and social class. For every “homeless by choice,” there are dozens cast to the winds without family support or even simple compassion. But that was before I ran into him. As if in possession of a dark force by which my innards were shocked, fried, and transformed evermore, this man – calamitously filthy, bearded, and impossibly lean – has forced a reversal of course so dramatic, not even I can keep up with the disarray. In one fell swoop, or, more accurately, one endless, drunken stumblefuck across a busy street during an evening’s commute, this homeless gentleman, hereby referred to only as “the cocksucker,” accomplished with a single gesture what thousands of hours of right-wing radio could never hope to achieve: I now officially, and unapologetically, hate the homeless.
It is an early weekday afternoon, and I am driving in typically grandmotherly fashion along the relatively busy Santa Fe Boulevard near downtown Denver. I am at or even below the posted speed limit, and my attention is even sharper than usual, as I have yet to turn on the radio or begin to stuff my face with the evening’s greasy confection. Eyes forward, hands positioned with care, I see before me, still at a reasonable distance, a man who, from where I sit, may not make it across the road. He jerks, shuffles, backs up, and even leans forward to the point of tipping, yet manages to stay upright. Cars are racing towards the cocksucker, but he has not made a single move that would indicate he understands his predicament. As I approach, his stare remains glassy-eyed, and only now can I see that his tattered attire and darkened countenance approximate that of a Victorian bootblack, rather than anyone simply out for a stroll. Back and forth, to and fro, he turns on his heel and, rather than steeping to the side and out of the way, he marches towards my vehicle, heedless of the risk he takes by sauntering among several speeding tons of steel. Nearly at a complete stop (I believe I am inching forward, hoping good sense comes to the poor sap), I stare intently at the cocksucker, unaware of the madness that was to follow.
There, in an instant, the cocksucker raises his fist in utter defiance, bellows unmercifully, and by all appearances, has entered the initial phase of a full-blown seizure. The insanity is palpable, and for all I know, he may attack as if uncaged by the knowledge that no threat of prison could make his life any worse than it is. As my windows remain shut tight, I am unable to discern the precise words he uses, but his mouth is moving with such schizophrenic scattershot that it could be sheer white noise; a wall of sound, the very timbre of hell. And then, as if consumed by the same rage that provoked the cocksucker before me, I send him two unambiguous hand gestures, as well as a scowl so deep and disturbing that its message will be clear even through the dirt of grime of my windshield. These counterattacks further provoke the beast, and, as if wounded by a whaler’s harpoon, he looks skyward and lets loose the terror of a thousand sleepless nights. (Had we been face to face, I would have been torn to pieces and fed to his buddies.) I drive on, bathed in the glow of adrenaline, and vow from that moment on that I will wage unrestrained war against the cocksucker and his kind. I am born again.
In the days following this fanatical barrage, I look upon the homeless with fresh eyes, noticing behavior that has previously been shrugged off as the expected and unfortunate actions of the victim class. But hold on now, why is that motherfucker charging my car? Fuck, man, he’s pounding on the glass! And I’m sitting at the stoplight and, wait, a group of the assfuckers? And they’re hooting and scowling? Oh really? And as I drive along the off-ramp, who’s that in the distance? Some guy with his hand out even though there’s not a car to be found? And as I walk along the 16th Street Mall, is that yet another sulfer-saturated maniac with a tale to tell? How he needs but 46 cents to solve his problems, and yet an offered bus pass is turned away as if a bar of soap or pouch of initiative? Can you not take inspiration from your fellow layabouts and dance for your dollars? That guy is playing the guitar, and shit, that dude is preaching the word of Jesus. Something, my good man, so that I know you’ve at least made more effort that setting down a dirty cup. I know, I know, you can’t work, because you’re ill and have no address, and your childhood was more Sybil than Cosby, but the least – and I do mean the least – you can do for me is provide a moment’s entertainment. Hit yourself in the face. Take a shit on the guy passed out in the alley, whatever. I have better things to do. After all, he’s still out there.