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two months later he is dead

published: 2011-12-11

The amount of people we see but immediately forget. Then remember all over again the next day as we pay for our groceries. We’re thinking about whether to buy sour dough bread or whole grain and looking at the texture of all those loafs on all those shelves, not at the person handing them to us. We smile and say thank-you but as we leave the store, we leave that person behind.
A man stands outside the grocery store, every single day. He sells a magazine that only homeless people are allowed to sell. A lot of people give him money and tell him to keep the magazine. It’s fine by him. Or maybe it’s not. Who’s to know, when nobody asks. One day, a young lady in a white lammy coat speaks to him. She has jet-black hair which she wears in a tight ponytail. Clearly she has just come from work. She asks him why he is doing this. And shouldn’t he be considering a proper job. And this is too easy, she says, isn’t it? Who could expect to make anything out of life by taking the easy way out? She, for one, has worked so hard at becoming who she is. What does he do with the money he earns anyway? She hopes he isn’t going to spend it on drugs or alcohol. He says it’s for a bed at the shelter. She says she doesn’t believe him. Housing for the homeless is free.

The man falls silent in confusion. He is holding her umbrella for her.

Two weeks later he is noticeably thinner. He looks more like how he was a few years ago. Worn, torn by life, hollow-eyed and high. He had fattened up over time, cut his hair, learned to make conversation, or at least tried to. He always says ‘hello how are you?’ and he even smiles. He never remembers a face.
Two months later he is dead.

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