everyone calls him Hungry. at least those that know him do. i dont call him anything really, save maybe generic titles of recognition when i have to tell him to get out from in front of the bar. its not good to have him in front of the bar, and its especially bad to have him in it. so when he comes around i keep an eye out so that he doesnt start to linger too long. its just bad for business.
i used to always see him on eastern parkway, near grand army plaza, waiting at the corner for traffic to stop so that he could approach the car windows and solicit for money. i usually dont pay this much attention but i noticed he always wore a different set of clothes, he didnt much look like a homeless person. he looked like a guy that took showers, had a roof, and housed a wardrobe of decent threads. i couldnt tell if he made enough begging for change to do all this, or if he just did it for the hell of it. i didnt think to hard about it though. i would just walk by and look curiously.
then i started seeing him on his bicycle a lot. he would be riding around the neighborhood, saying whats up to people while going or coming. this is how i found out his name was hungry. a friend told me that he grew up in the neighborhood, that he was addicted to drugs, that he lived with his mother. it made sense.
after a while he stopped posting up at grand army plaza, id only see him on his bike. i wondered if he had found another place to solicit money, a more profitable corner. winter came and he started to sport a big black coat. i noticed his clothes didnt change as often too.
he'd drop his bike on the ground and walk into the store next door. he'd say hello to everyone, addressing them as Fam'. he even tried to get on my good graces a few times, seeing as we recognized each others from the area. i was steely though, i nodded to him but at the same time my face was impenetrable. i wouldnt allow him to think we were friends, that could just be dangerous.
he started getting jittery. youre not looking so good, Hungry, my friend said to him. he just laughed a wild, unhinged laugh and said, i'm alright fam. his hat was dirty and his clothes were getting dirtier and he started getting a crook in his body, as if he was always bent to the side. his shirts became oversized, even more oversized than the fashion warranted, and his pants grew baggier. they looked like they would fall off.
over the course of a year id seen him decay, but he never completely went under. he still wore a smile and still said hello to everybody. he still rode his bike around the hood. he just got thinner, more brittle, and the dirt upon him grew. his smile, which was always there, got blacker and more crooked, and his eyes became glassier and less aware.
the other day he came into the bar. we were closing but there were still a few people in there. when me and the barback saw him we both groaned and rolled our eyes. he walked to teh corner and plugged in a cell phone that im positive wasnt even on. he danced a bit in place, as if hearing loud music in his head. i stared at him while wiping down the bar. finally he turned to me and with that crooked smile said, lemme get a shot, fam.
no, i said, were closed.
he smiled even wider and said, ok i get it fam. hey, you want to buy a bike?
i looked outside where his bike was leaned up against the wall. i wondered how he would get around without it. it was a nice bike.
no, im good, i said.
a'ight fam, holla at me, he said. then he unplugged his phone and walked out. i looked around to see if he had left anything or taken anything, but there was nothing in that corner. as he left i could hear the swishing of his arms in that big black coat, which engulfed him almost entirely. it was cold outside, maybe 20 degrees in the wind. he got on his bike and rode away.
what was that about? my barback asked.
nothing, i said, guy just wanted a drink.