⪧ We left our life in New York City to make a new one in Provence ⪦

September 15, 2010

The dogs.

Every morning I walk by someone. He is one of the strangest people I have ever seen. He doesn't seem real. He sits on the same corner, in exactly the same position - on a blue crate and he leans against the beam of the streetlight. He holds a cardboard sign at his feet. "I had polio. I'm hungry. Please help." His legs are tangled. He is albino. He squints and presses a newspaper almost to his eyes and reads. He wears running shoes and a baseball cap that always look soggy. He is bony and tall. I work on maybe the most affluent road of all - Park Avenue. No one who walks on this road wants to look at him. Everyone tries not to. Me too. Sometimes, I even find myself crossing at a different intersection to avoid him. It is a confession that makes me wince - deeply. But I end up thinking about him a lot.

This morning. I approach the corner. The buildings almost bend at the top they are so tall. I see a group of accumulated people occupying the sidewalk space right next to him, waiting for the light to change colors. There are two lower forms - shaggy and blonde. Dogs. They look without any aversion. Tongues out, ardent. Straight at him and he reaches out. He is beaming as he pets them. He is suddenly not at all strange and very real. The purple tie looks down at his dogs, jangles the leash and kicks at them to move away. The green-go disencumbers him and the tie cuts in front of other people to flee. He commands the dogs to obey. They gaze back - tongues out. I watch the man sitting there on the crate, who just keeps grinning wonderment, even delight, about those dogs. I keep walking. And I keep wondering who he is and who I am in relation to him.

12 comments:

Maria Petrova said...

I love this, Em.

Rosie said...

Contrasts. Did this man choose to serve as a reminder for so many people who pass by him each day, that they can walk?

Marnie said...

Maybe he did. Maybe he thought he'd go somewhere he thought the people could afford to help him?
I really don't understand why people find revulsion in such a condition, although it happens that way in pretty much any major city I've been to. I can't walk past people like that without saying hello and giving them something. We are brothers and sisters in the big human family. I realise some of them choose that lifestyle, but I can't bring myself to withhold my help on that basis. If I'm being duped, then really, is there a better circumstance under which to be duped?
If you happen to pass by him again, can you please buy him a burger with the lot on my behalf? Tell him it's from long lost sister in Australia.
Beautifully written, and so sad.

Emilie said...

The truth is that I just cried after I watched this. I rode the elevator up, crammed with people, then sat down at my desk and bit my lip not to cry a whole lot. It all seemed so silly - the contrasts.

Yes, I'll buy a hamburger. I'll buy plenty of things for him, but I wish I knew the best thing to do. What he would appreciate most.

Xavier Joly said...

Just ask him

Emilie said...

I did. This morning I brought him a raspberry tart and talked to him. He likes basketball a lot. And hamburgers and rice. We have a lunch date later on.

Judie said...

oh Em...you are such a beautiful person :) I am glad I decided to click on your blog today...

D1Warbler said...

My second oldest daughter (the first person your dad ever presided over a marriage for in our ward in Minneapolis)used to always stop and give something to the homeless people in Boston. I have done it for the folks who ask for handouts outside the Temple in Salt Lake on many occasions. It doesn't take much to give a little, and it doesn't hurt us much if we are occasionally taken advantage of, either. So glad you found this out for yourself with such a beautiful person.

Interestingly, I had only read as far as your question to yourself about what he would like most and I immediately said the same thing in my mind as your wonderful husband wrote in your blog. "Just ask him."

Gina said...

Emilie, I love this story. I love your kindness, your thoughtfulness, and your openness. The world needs more Emilies, and you inspire me to do better. I also found D1Warbler's comment that "it doesn't hurt us much if we are occasionally taken advantage of" to be so simple yet profound. You know what I see every day in Paris, and it is so easy to be defensive and seek to avoid being taken advantage of, but she's right...it's not a big deal if we're putting out a lot of love and occasionally get back a little "gotcha." So what...it's the love that counts. Thanks to both of you.

Xtreme English said...

wonderful post. the dogs know. these days i often think i have no money to give, but i do smile and ask them how it's going, and then i manage to find a buck that's not going anywhere. it's hard times all around.

Jill said...

Sometimes the contrasts we experience as humans on this planet take my breath away with their starkness, and none of it seems to make any sense. Sometime I feel like you did Em...I just want to sit down at my desk and have a good cry. I love that you went and talked to him. I knew you would.

Tech Ed said...

That's a nice post. In the closing moments of a Streetcar Named Desire, Blanche utters her signature line to the kindly doctor who leads her away: "Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers."

Reminded me of that. I just happened to have read this while listening to this song:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y11Lo0MnNa0

Seemed like the perfect soundtrack to a lot of what you create here.

Thank you so much for the colors you provide to the internet. They stay with me.

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