Woke up late, eyes refusing to join the living, and was hardly looking forward to the day. The sun riding high in the east was some solace as I trudged up Haight towards work, performing the rote task of a million days before. Pass Katz Bagels where, after several disastrous attempts, I have finally convinced the staff that I have my own bag, thanks, and they need not give me one. Pass the poisonous tree trunk oozing black pitch, bubbling orange crystals and burning my eyes and lungs with foul discharge. Up the hill past the halfway house and the rehab center where they have garage sales when it’s nice on Saturday mornings.
I’m not ready to pay attention yet but I have noticed the man walking down the sidewalk at me. My initial glance triggered a memory of a Haight Street habitual who, in a high sing-song voice, would ask, “Do you have any money for food” just as soon as you’ve walked past. I edged to the right, availing space for his passage, waiting for the familiar plea which was so annoyingly tardy.
Instead I look up and see the crazed face of a disturbed individual aimed at me. His arm is outstretched, fist making a gun, and the fingers of his barrel stop at my temple. He begins to make loud gunshot sounds, hampered by the not quite chewed bread stuffing his mouth. Confused I make a gun with my fist, tap his temple with my fingers and we stand there for a moment blowing each others’ brains out. I don’t echo his effects because, frankly, I’m not awake enough but I do them in my head.
Okay, the partially chewed bread is getting everywhere so I disengage from our death tryst and begin to continue up the hill. He yells, “Do you wanna fight” at me and I turn back a little mystified. Does he mean fight like with our guns and shouting bang bang or does he want to hit me? I stare at him as he repeats the invitation, observe the encrusted filth and the matted hair, rags for clothes, wild glare. He’s not drunk or an asshole, I know, he’s fucking crazy. “Do you wanna fight?” No, I don’t. “But you’re eating breakfast,” I reply, pointing to the biscuit or whatever he’s got in his hand, and turn to leave. He keeps challenging me but I’m done with this game.
To be honest I’m not sure if this actually was the sing-song “Do you have any money for food” guy because I never really scrutinize him. I do enjoy the twisted thought of a man who, because of his mental illness, is on the street and begging for food. Passive and hungry, filthy and alienated, even his pleas come too late, too meekly, too easily ignored. But when he’s been fed, lookout world. It’s payback time.
Photo is unattributed, stolen from MSNBC by someone other than me. This is not today’s subject nor does it look remotely like him.