Now there is a man who has apparently been living on the same bench for over a month. He sleeps in a sleeping bag on the edge of the waterside, the railing keeping him from falling into the cold and murky water below, sort of like a baby's crib, but a whole lot less cozy. He is surrounded by bags of trash containing empty food boxes, empty bottles, bits of paper, and I don't know what else because I try not to look too closely, partly out of respect for his privacy, and partly because of my squeamishness. Sometimes he is out of his bag and shaking his head endlessly from side to side. He has a white beard and the remains of his long white hair are pulled back from his balding brown forehead into a ponytail. We've never exchanged a word. I've never seen him talk to anyone except possibly to the people only he can see. Seeing him makes me sad, so sometimes I confess I will walk the other way.
But winter is coming, and today there are torrential rains pouring down at the end of a ridiculously warm October. I tried calling him to the attention of the Mayor's Office last week. I was told to call 911. So I did. Other cardboard beds and cushions from discarded lawn furniture disappeared, but my bearded friend and his bags remained untouched.
I guess my next move is to bring a breakfast sandwich once in a while and leave it on his bench. But what kind of society have we become when this is not a shocking situation? When after a month (or is it two?) nothing has been done and people are so used to seeing him that they don't really see him any more? And this is just on my little walk to the office. Whom do you see on yours? And what on earth are we going to do?