I was debating whether I wanted to write about this or not but I felt like it was too strange not to mention. Besides, it’ll be a break from the monotony of talking about coffee. (Have I mentioned that coffee has taken over my life?)
The other night I was meeting a couple of friends in the city for drinks as a combination celebration of a friend’s birthday and a going away party for another friend. I decided to meet up with two of my girlfriends beforehand, who were already in the city. I showered, did my hair, got all dolled up in little shorts and heels, and then jumped on the train to head back over. They said that they were at a restaurant on 11th, so I got off at the 12th 13th exit. There was construction on the tracks though, so by the time I got there they had wandered off to 16th. I started walking up Chestnut towards them, and passed a coffee shop where a guy was out sweeping. He looked at me and smiled, then asked if I wanted a coffee. “No, no. Sorry, I’m going to meet some friends,” I told him. But he was insistant, and told me that he wanted to buy me a coffee. I laughed, mumbled something about already having had several lattes that day (unfortunately, I had) and stumbled off.
That wasn’t the weird part.
As I’m walking on, I see a man collapsed on the sidewalk about a hundred yards away. And people are just stepping over him, passing him. One kid took the burning cigarette out of his mouth and shoved it between the fingers of the collapsed man. As I got closer I realized it was a homeless man and that he was shaking. A woman was already at the payphone a few feet away calling 911. I started running over in my heels and kneeled down next to the guy, who didn’t seem to be aware of anything at all. I grabbed his wrist and checked his pulse, which was beating like a drum solo. I asked him if he needed anything, and he hoarsely asked for water. There was a deli about three doors down that I rushed into, grabbed a bottle of water and threw money down on the counter. I was tipping the bottle into his mouth when a bike cop rode up. He checked the man over and immediately called for an ambulance. The homeless man held my finger loosely for a few minutes until the ambulance showed up and they ushered him away.
I walked the next few blocks talking with the woman that had called on the payphone. Neither of us was really able to understand why everyone had just been stepping over the man, and we were disgusted by the guy with the cigarette. Had the man been wearing an Italian suit and loafers, everyone would have rushed to his side. I have to say though, my immediate thoughts on seeing the man was that it was a ruse, that he was trying to get people to buy things for him. And maybe that was what people thought when they passed by.
I retold this story to a few friends later that we met up with in the bar, and one guy asked “So you touched a homeless man?”