As I drove north on Broadway this morning, debating whether to stop for an Americano and an Odwalla bar, I spied a shoe lying in the middle of the street. I swerved to avoid it for reasons I can’t quite articulate. While I did so, my eyes strayed across the adjoining lane of traffic to the sight of a man huddled on a bench somewhere between the wide expanse of the roadway curve and an inconspicuous bus stop.
The man wore army fatigues, had long, disheveled hair, and looked thick and cumbersome. His head rested heavily on his chest; his arms were wrapped around his chest. I glanced at his feet; two shoes. I drove past. I did not stop.
I turned the corner beyond my office and circled back to park. A cluster of homeless people awaiting the opening of the Neighbor 2 Neighbor soup kitchen parted to let my car through the three-way intersection . I lifted my hand in thanks; no one responded.
On the sidewalk outside my office building, a wide swathe of litter testified to the weekend’s events. Beer bottles, soda cups, random crumpled papers; I skirted around the bulk of it to get to the car door so I could retrieve my bag. As I bent to lift it from the floor of my car, I glanced diagonally, down the block, at the man on the bench. I saw him rise, shake himself a little as though just awakening, and adjust his bulky clothes. For a moment, I could see the narrow line of his shoulders, the thinness of his arms, the taut angle of his face. I swear his eyes met mine, though I doubt either of us could really see that far. Neither of us moved, neither of us averted our gaze. But in the next instant, a bus lumbered up Broadway and eased itself between us.