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Tuesday, September 18, 2012



Monday, 9/17/12. Man with belongings outside church. He's been homeless, on and off, for the last eight years. Every month, he gets a Supplemental Security Income check, for being disabled, but it's not enough. He used to work construction, but hardly anyone is hiring, especially not a grey haired white guy. This time, he's been outside continuously for three weeks. On Saturday, I lent him my cellphone so he could call his mom. She lives in an old folks home, so he can't stay with her. He spent much of the conversation pleading with her to give him $100, so he could rent a room in a boarding house, but the old lady either didn't quite have it, or didn't want to give it to him. How many times has he asked for money? Between prolonged bouts of explaining and pleading, he'd shout, "Mom, why don't you just die, die!" But then he said, "Mom, what would happen if something happened to you? What if you died? I'm outside, Mom. Who would bury you? How would I even know if you died? This man here is lending me his cellphone, but he's one in a million! Another gave me 8 bucks. He's another one in a million! The rest, they just want to rob you! When you're on the streets, they see you, so they can come back and rob you! This city is nothing but thieves! The guy who took my bag last night, he probably threw much of it away, but I lost my shaving kit, and some of my clothes, and some of my writing, and that's irreplacable!"

He said he had been robbed three times, the last on Friday night when it was cold, and he had to cover his head as he slept.

"You mentioned writing. What do you write?"

"I write about oceanography, physics and chemistry. I have all these notebooks. It's years and years of work."

He was remarkably clean and neat. The shelters are no good, he said, because the people there steal from each other, and they kick you out at 6 in the morning. As we were talking, a black guy walked by smoking, so the homeless man asked him for a cigarette. The guy gave him what's left of his entire pack.



Ksou said...

That's really good of him , to give him the rest of a whole pack .

Hell, a few cigs can be enough to keep you going .

As for why I don't own a car in So Cal , off my meager income I could afford to pay for a car or rent... not both . Welcome to the new normal, we will work much harder for less !

sick mark said...

Every time I've seen a black person being asked for something--whether it be money, cigarettes, whatever from the homeless, that person always gives it.


About Me

Born in Vietnam in 1963, I lived mostly in the US from 1975 until 2018, and have returned to my native Saigon. I've also lived in Italy, England and Germany. I'm the author of a non-fiction book, Postcards from the End of America (2017), a novel, Love Like Hate (2010), two books of stories, Fake House (2000) and Blood and Soap (2004), six collections of poems, with a Collected Poems soon to be released from Chax Press. I've been anthologized in Best American Poetry 2000, 2004, 2007, Great American Prose Poems from Poe to the Present, Postmodern American Poetry: a Norton Anthology (vol. 2) and Flash Fiction International: Very Short Stories From Around the World, etc. I'm also editor of Night, Again: Contemporary Fiction from Vietnam (1996) and The Deluge: New Vietnamese Poetry (2013). My writing has been translated into Japanese, Italian, Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Portuguese, Korean, Arabic, Icelandic and Finnish, and I've been invited to read in Tokyo, London, Cambridge, Brighton, Paris, Berlin, Leipzig, Halle, Reykjavik, Toronto, Singapore and all over the US. I've also published widely in Vietnamese.