There was usually a man sometimes out in front of the grocery store who appeared local but probably wasn’t a member of the Home Owners Association. Sometimes he wrangled carts in the parking lot, sometimes he asked politely for a few bucks to buy a coffee which he would then sit and drink near some manicured bushes with a concrete box surrounding them where he’d rest comfortably and watch people enter and exit the store through the rubberized mechanical swish of the automatic doors. He wasn’t really all that clean or well kept and I’d never gotten all that close to him but I can’t imagine he smelled anything but terrible. But then again he wasn’t all together filthy in a bio-hazardous general neglect for sanitation and bodily fluids sort of way, more so like someone who has been camping for a not inconsiderable amount of time- a bit dirty but not necessarily like ew, gross. Above all that however what I’d really noticed about him was that he never moved very fast but always seemed very deliberately in control; he also never seemed to smile but also never frowned; was always around but never really in anyone’s way; he was always present but never busy. I’d wondered if he’d always been there or just recently showed up. It was hard to tell with vagrants and the homeless, how long they’d been around or how long they planned to stay because no one ever really talked directly to them in any meaningful way. Sure, there was the standard -Please help, God Bless, type of back and forth but the real substantive conversation, the stuff that actually impacted people always happened more indirectly. The vagrant or whomever would show up and be around for awhile and maybe it would annoy some people and so they’d get to talking. Most everyone else would just go on about their lives passing here and there in parking lots and checkout lines until one day an innocuous rod ironed fence with architecturally ornate spear tipped posts would be installed on the concrete box surrounding the manicured bushes; and most people wouldn’t notice the fence or the fact that the vagrant no longer had a place to sit and drink his coffee. And life would go on. And who knows how the vagrant felt about this or whether he understood that a lot of the inconveniences in his life were really only his fault because he’d chosen such freely available hobbies to occupy his time. Perhaps he’d just felt unnoticed and unlucky, like all he was trying to do was to stay out of the way and wherever that was always ended up with a pointy fence around it; sitting around wondering how he could be both completely invisible and so unwanted at the exact same time; wondering why his presence was such a problem if no one seemed to even notice him at all. And that was the really weird part all together- he had none of the things he needed to get noticed, to stand out from the crowd (cars, girls, money, skills, title, education, expertise, professional network) and yet he was unavoidable. He was always around and so extremely uncomplicated in his appearance and motives, needs, wants, ambition and desires that he was almost entirely foreign, almost completely unrecognizable; and he was dealt with in the consistent manner of all serious threats, through the isolation of active ignorance and covert alienation- through subtle indirect conspiracies enacted against his natural way of life. You like to sit there? How about after we install a rod iron beautification fence? Why would anyone confront him and ask him to move along? Why treat him with the same indignity you would treat a colleague, peer, family member or friend? When you can avoid confrontation, marginalize his existence, incentivize him to make the choice as to your best interests on his own and all the while stimulating the rod ironed fence and commercial landscaping economies?
Except but even so I guess I just understood where the guy was coming from the day that I got to the store as he was being quietly handcuffed where he sat on the curb off to the side of the building where the police had instructed him to wait while they took the Manager’s statement and laughed about how the predominantly black high school across town could no longer host football games after dark and how women wanted to control access to their own reproductive systems, har har. Because as it turns out after years of just sitting around watching people pass by without looking at or acknowledging him and then one day having a rod iron spear shoved up his ass, as if they’d been lurking in the shadows all this time just waiting for the right opportunity to pounce, he had kind of freaked out and thought that maybe he didn’t actually exist. How could he see and feel himself and at the same time be so completely consistently ignored by everyone else? If only he had known that he had been noticed, that the rod iron ass spears were the cumulative effect of all of the people in all of the communities in which he’d lived, having either passively or actively participated in the pace of his demise, sustenance or removal- having really acknowledged his existence and were reacting to it; perhaps then he would’ve felt loved and wouldn’t have progressed from gently asking for coffee money to gently trying to touch customers faces to prove to at least himself that either of them actually existed in like reality, or as the police called it: battery. And also it didn’t really help the already chaotic evening parking rush; maybe it would make sense at this point to remove the concrete box and manicured bushes to free up what looked like easily three more spots, maybe four if we’re talking compact sedans. I mean now that no one is going to be using the bushes or the concrete box we could probably just get the same company that installed the fence to tear the whole thing down; and maybe even get a deal because of all the work we’re throwing their way.