Monday, March 10, 2008

spare squares

there is a guy that lurks up and down my block, asking everybody for a cigarette. he doesnt look entirely homeless, but he also doesnt look as if he has the mental capacity to work or pay any bills. he is white and wears glasses. he must be in his forties or so.

now, my neighborhood isnt a haven for the homeless by any means. In fact, there are only one or two or three that i ever see regularly. There is a guy that stands in front of the corner market around the block from my crib, that always ask for change before you enter the store.

[He annoys the hell out of me. you cant walk through the doors with out him pleading with you to either drop him some loot on the way in, or suggesting you break him off when you exit. it bugs me to no end that he does this. i do not need a brief over view of my many options on how to distribute spare change to the homeless. i know that if i do not have any change on the way in, there is a possibility i will on the way out. do not remind me of this. it is as if i have to pay a toll every time i need a half gallon of milk]

and there is the guy who stands in front of the bodega at the Q train stop, who injects such a desperation into his pleas for money its hard for me to look him in the eye as i pass. He is even worse than the corner market guy, because he usually is wearing clothes that look slightly better than mine. and the way he begs, PLEASE spare me some change mister, PLEASE! he approaches it as if you are his last and only option. his voice and tone suggest that you are his final hope, that if he doesnt get any spare change from you, he will never get any spare change ever. He does this to everyone that passes, which reduces the effect, but still, it gets to me.

and then there is the cigarette guy.

ive seen the cigarette guy once with someone else, a woman that looked his age. He had a cigarette that day, and she was loading a car with groceries. he wasnt helping, just stood there taking his short, intense drags and staring blankly into the city streets. i wouldnt have even known they were together if she hadnt told him to get in the car as she piled away the final bag in her trunk. I still have no idea who she was, and it was the only time i ever saw her.

i always see him though, and he always ask me if i have a spare cigarette. he ask EVERYBODY that passes him. He stands on the stoops of our neighborhood and request a smoke from whoever walks by. Old women. Teenagers. Cops. Toddlers. Parents. Me. he doesnt care if they dont look like they smoke, you could be being wheeled by in an iron lung and he'd try to make eye contact and put two fingers to his lips and mouth the words "gotta smoke?" He is shameless. too shameless. Thats why i assume he isnt all there.

sometimes, if i have one, ill give him a cigarette. i asked him once if he wanted me to roll him one and he looked confused and walked away. i guess he prefers filters. i havent seen him in a while. maybe its been too cold. but the old lady got a carton of smokes from mexico and if i do see him i think im gonna run out and hand him one.


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:gray matters: by jkg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at