The Weight of Home

I got the chance to hang out with Chris tonight, and the two of us caught up a bit over drinks at Monk’s.

We parted ways around 8PM, and as I was walking to the train down Lake Street… I spotted a young guy who seemed to be in some distress. He was standing near a bike, but crouching down and clutching his jeans. This is a crude description, but from a distance it kind of looked like he was hunching over, bending his knees as though he would be pulling down his pants to go to the bathroom.

I noticed him because a cop had stopped in the street, with his lights on.

I walked by the guy. But then I turned around, looked at him kind of drifting down, then catching himself and standing upright, then drifting down again. I decided to turn around to see if he was ok.

When I touched him on the shoulder he seemed to perk up a bit. I asked if he had anywhere he could go and crash, if I could call him a cab. Part of me wanted to help and part of me was thinking that maybe I could move him away from the cop, maybe avoid him being arrested.

The guy was young, late 20’s or early 30’s. Given his dress, he could have passed for a computer guy, a developer maybe. Beard. Hoodie. The staple uniform for any average tech worker.

He said he wanted a bus ticket. I had a hard time making his words out but he seemed to want a ticket to Wisconsin. The cab, according to him, would be way too expensive.

At this time, the cop had pulled over fully, lights still flashing, and had gotten out of the car.

When I asked the guy if there was anywhere he could go, he said no. He then began walking a little with me, asking if I could go with him to the ticket counter and buy his ticket for him. I explained that I had to catch a train, and that I couldn’t help him.

When I paused, he began doing that crouching thing again, folding into himself as though the weight of his head and shoulders was too much to hold up.

The cop was now next to us, and asked the guy how he was doing. The guy answered that he was just tired.

The cop then asked, “Bad dope?” And then he told the guy to sit down on the sidewalk. The guy asked, “Right here, on the floor?” The cop said yes and the guy sat down.

After this happened the cop, who looked like a shorter version of Anderson Cooper, seemed to relax a little bit. He turned to me and said, “When they get like this, it’s usually bad dope.” I took this as both an explanation and an excuse for me to move on.

I walked away.

There’s a part of me that was incredibly saddened by this interaction. The whole walk to the a Metra stop, I felt bad that this guy had nowhere to go.

All he wanted, really, was to get home. To somehow get back to Wisconsin and… I don’t know. Return to his family for forgiveness? Find his friends? To find a lost love, to apologize and to be given a second chance?

Part of me wonders whether I should have gotten him that ticket. Or, if in sending him to a new state, I would be making his situation worse – leaving him to fend for himself in a new city, with even less than he had in Chicago.

Should I have tried to walk him away from the cop? Could I have spared him a night in jail? Did I give up too soon, worried only about myself and missing my own train back home?

I can’t stop thinking about this guy, and where he might be right now. Drying out in jail, seems the likeliest answer. Maybe that’s the best answer.

It strikes me that the best sort of kindness there is, is in helping someone in need find their way home. I’m deeply saddened I couldn’t help this guy (a kid, really) get any closer.

Maybe jail is the best answer. Not a home, necessarily, but home enough for the short term. A small bit of time where he could stop trying to pull himself up, to be relieved of whatever weight he was carrying around.

For a night, at least.

[CC photo via Danielle Scott]

Bobby Fischer, 1943 – 2008
Tokyo Dreams: Short Videos of People Sleeping on the Subway

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. In this time that we live in, many people have lost their heart. Being numb to each other and their struggles, be it a beggar on the street, or the homeless, many dismiss them just to make themselves feel better. Its nice to read about a heart like mine, reminds me how much a gift it really is, to be someone who cares..can’t help it. I like to think that this guy maybe did go to jail but this time when he came down, he remembered the guy who was sincere and maybe remembered and connected that to someone close to him that cared, like the guy at the greyhound. :)

    Utopia Reply

  2. Intense stuff. A good reminder that for all the grumbles we shared last night about our home projects, we’re awful lucky to have a home and someone to embrace when we get there.

    Chris Reply

  3. You’re still such a caring person as you’ve always been. I always learn from your observations and compassion. It sounds like the police officer who stopped was professional and cared too, or he probably would’ve just kept driving. They don’t always throw them in jail and forget the key so you might have left him in the best hands possible.

    Dipti Reply

Leave A Reply