It was sunny and warm and we were on a mission. We wanted to find a particular restaurant that we knew was somewhere near by. The street was crowded with people going, it seemed, every which way. We got out of the flow of pedestrians and tried to figure out which was to go. Once we had it figured, we set off.
I saw him almost right away, he was about half a block away and headed our way. He was a homeless man who had a shopping cart full to the brim with everything he owned. I paid attention to him only because with my chair and his cart we both needed to ensure that we had the room we needed to pass each other.
He did not see me until we were only a few feet apart, I know this only because I saw him see me. (Anyone who is different knows what I mean here.) His face changed into something akin to anger. And he charged me aiming his shopping cart right at me. It was only seconds before he was about to hit me, I saw the charge and waited until he was close enough that I could grab the front of the cart and veer it forcibly off to my left and away from me. It worked.
I sat there shocked.
I said to Joe, “That guy aimed right at me, he wanted to hurt me!”
He heard me and spun round and started to call me a ‘fat fucker’ and a ‘God damned pig’ and a ‘lardass motherf#cker.’
I didn’t like having those names shouted at me, nor did I like how they echoed between the large buildings around us, it was like the air agreeing with him. I didn’t like how it drew everyone’s attention, not to him but to me. I didn’t like feeling what I was feeling about him.
I hated him in that moment.
But I did.
I know, or am guessing, that he has a mental illness, that he has a hard life, and I know that should matter to me in how I assess what happened and how I felt about it. I know that I should be working towards some kind of sensitivity to him and his situation. I can’t imagine the life he lives. I know that.
I’ve waited for several weeks to write this. I thought that, over time, I would feel differently and be able to write a different kind of story.
And I know that I should.
But I don’t want to contrive to be here in print who I’m not as I type this.
I have history too. I have hurts too. I don’t want to compare and contrast with what his might have been, I’m just saying that I do. I have been a target for most of my life. I’ve heard words like that for all of my life. And they hurt me. They are words with sharp edges and their job is to cut, and to say they don’t is to deny the existence and experience of both the dart and the board.
Joe put his hand on my shoulder and we turned back to our quest. At that moment I was so grateful for both a destination and a companion.
Two things that I have needed my whole life long.