I helped someone today.
I’m holed up in Dallas hotel, waiting out the interim between shows. Typically, one city means one week, and stuffing in my usual tasks like picking up a rental, renting a U-Haul because aforementioned rental is too small for my cargo, then grabbing said cargo and setting all that shit up in prep for a weekend of selling merchandise just doesn’t leave wiggle room in the schedule.
But there’s miles of wiggle room here. I’ve been in Texas two weeks with one more to burn up. And it’s a slow burn. What they don’t tell you is being stuck in a hotel is like being stuck in your own head. The thoughts just bounce off the walls and reverberate back into your skull, repeating themselves endlessly. Small tasks distract yourself. Going to Wal-Mart. Driving to Raising Cane’s (it’s an all chicken finger establishment — a novel concept that Florida really needs to fucking pick up on). Masturbating. Marathoning B-rate anime on Netflix. Shaving. Masturbating. A cycle of distractions made, somehow, more poignant because you’re not home. You’re not where you should be. A stranger in a minutely strange land.
Today’s distraction was walking to the gas station convenience store around the corner. A simple task that, in the hour or so before the sun washes away from the sky, has no foreseeable obstacles. But there was one.
A lanky, darkly tanned white guy, his hair buzzed to almost nothing and his logo-less t-shirt dangling around his collar like a sheet meant for a child’s bed. Tattoos ran up both of his arms. On top of those, blisters. He was speaking to someone parked in front of the store. I had hoped I could just slip by without stirring his attention because needless interaction is needless and it’s oh-so ingrained in us as kids to avoid any and every stranger that we grow up experts in aversion.
Of course, the moment “Don’t talk to me” crossed my lobes, he spoke. “Hey, can you help me get some food?”
I didn’t process that at first. I was dealing with that twinge in your stomach and up your back you get when someone you don’t know addresses you. Anyway, it’s not what I heard. Expectation made me hear, “Hey, you got a dollar to spare?” That’s the common one I get. It’s funny, my parents taught me, usually through example, to just ignore a bum.
As I aged, I experimented for myself, giving change or loose dollars to those that asked and, wouldn’tcha knowit?, I didn’t lose a hand. Then, a colleague of mine injected paranoia-by-scenario, explaining that, sometimes, if you elect to open your wallet for a would-be needy individual, they’d eye how much cash you’ve got tucked between the leather and produce a knife, or worse, and take much more than a crumpled dollar. But he didn’t ask for money. He straight up asked for food.
"Whatcha need?" I said calmly, that twinge rubbing my nerves.
"Anything. A coke. A honey bun. Whatever." That’s what I thought I could make out, anyway. He spoke in mumbles. I could tell he probably wasn’t much older than me, but was aged a decade by Texas’ fierce bitch of a sun.
"A honey bun?" I asked.
"Yeah," he muttered, looking like he expected me to tell him to fuck off.
"Okay. I’ll be back."
I don’t believe in God, so there’s no winning graces here in exchange for a pair of wings and velvety blowjobs. Good karma falls into almost the same bracket, though I don’t quite chalk everything up to coincidence. Coincidence, after all, is the result of an unseen catalyst that may date back a million years and end in a hard shit instead of a soft one.
The dude was just down on his fucking luck and I had a minuscule opportunity to momentarily make his life better. So I bought him his honey bun and a tall can of Arizona Green Tea to wash sugar down with liquid sugar.
Tattoo Blisters barely said thank you. He may have grunted it. He was already digging into the plastic bag I handed him. I said in my best I’m An Adult Voice, “Try to take care of yourself, man.”
Of course, that was a dumb shit thing to say. I had just taken care of him because he, in fact, could not for himself.
It wasn’t a big deal. It was so much of a not big deal, it made me wonder why more people don’t do it. Perhaps we all have a friend or parent or lover or some other caring douche in our lives that warns us handing a dollar to a homeless person will earn you a rusty pocket-blade in the gut. That, because these people don’t have our same comforts, they stop being people. Don’t buy into that shit. Look up “empathy” and practice it from time to time.